In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks by ISIS in Paris last Friday, the news here in the United States is the reaction of presidential candidates and governors to the tragedy. An article in Monday’s South Bend Tribune reports Indiana Governor Mike Pence is suspending accepting any more Syrian refugees until he has assurances from the federal government it can guarantee none of those who would relocate to Indiana would pose a threat. His concerns were echoed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
A CNN report picked up by the WSBT website, quotes Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as saying, “We cannot let [the refugees] into this country, period.” Trump went so far as to condemn German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open her country’s borders to refugees.
Other top Republican candidates took a similar tone. According to the NBC website, Mike Huckabee and Dr. Ben Carson both called on the new House Speaker Paul Ryan to call for a vote to block funding for the resettlement of refugees to the United States. President Obama has called for continuing to bring in some 10,000 new refugees this year, chiding Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz for suggesting only allowing Syrian Christians to migrate to the United States. During Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate, all three candidates indicated their desire to see the United States take in more refugees, while expressing the need to properly screen those being accepted.
The reason for the reluctance in letting refugees flow freely into the country is the fear ISIS may infiltrate the ranks of those seeking to migrate here. This is fear is understandable. However, a few voices are reminding us we must be careful not to let fear control us. In his article in the Huffington Post, David Bier asserts the “definition of moral courage is to resist allowing fear to overwhelm our humanity.” He lists six reason we should “continue welcoming Syrian refugees after Paris.” He insists the likelihood of terrorists exploiting the system and arriving in the United States is very minute, and the consequences of turning a blind eye toward those displaced by war would be much worse. He reminds us what Paris experienced that one night, these refugees experienced every day. “We must not send those fleeing persecution back to their persecutors.”
Politicians will continue to debate, and perhaps legislate, over this issue. Most of us are able to have only a small voice in what they will do. Whether they decide to fall on the side of extreme caution or consummate compassion, or somewhere in between, remains to be seen.
Jesus Christ lived a life of compassion. It is not hard to imagine him having the same reaction to Syrian refugees as he had in Matthew 9:36.
“When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (NIV)
Whatever governments decide to do, there are practical ways we can show our compassion for the “harassed and helpless.” The website for NBC’s Today show has an article with links to various ways you can help. (See The simple way one American mom helped thousands of refugee children.) If you use social media, you can also help by sharing your compassion by posting helpful links on this topic.