After the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France more than half of the governors – 27 states in all — of the United States have said they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their States. They have made this decision under the guise of safety and protecting American citizens from ISIS terrorists. Not surprisingly, 26 of these states have Republican governors, including Oklahoma. What is most disheartening is that, for the most part, these are the same States and the same governors that have fought to have Ten Commandments monuments placed on the grounds of the State Capitol, fought same sex marriage because it is against their Christian beliefs (Alabama), and tried to pass restrictions on Sharia law. We live in a country where Christian people are upset if a business’ employees says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” are offended because Starbucks only has a red cup for Christmas, and protest the participation of Muslim U.S. veterans’ in a Veterans’ Day parade, simply because they are Muslim. We say that we are a Christian nation, yet our actions show something very different. When faced with the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, we respond with fear, xenophobia, and isolationism. We ignore these people in their time of greatest need.
There are approximately 12 million Syrian refugees. Let that number sink in. 12 million people that have fled their homeland. New York City has a population of only 8 million. The population for the entire State of Oklahoma is 3.8 million. There are more refugees from Syria than people that live in the entire State of Oklahoma and New York City combined. Of those 12 million people, roughly half are children. These children are especially at risk. They are susceptible to malnutrition and disease. Often, they have to work in dangerous and demeaning jobs to help provide for their family. They are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. And, between 2 and 3 million of these Syrian children are unable to even attend school. These are all things that we take for granted for our children here. Of the more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees that have left Syria, more than 50% are women. It is obvious that the refugees are not predominately military age males. This is a crisis that affects the young and old, men and women, Muslim and Christian alike. This is a crisis of biblical proportions. These people have fled their homes and are running for their lives; running from ISIS and the civil war in their home country.
Unfortunately, here in the United States, we greet them with distrust and fear. We are willing to accept the Christian refugees, but we are not willing to accept Muslim refugees. We believe them to be untrustworthy, solely because of their religious beliefs. We believe them to be terrorists or members of ISIS, even though, that is precisely what they are running from. This fear, this distrust, is wholly irrational. There is no evidence that any of these refugees are dangerous. And, here in Oklahoma, it is especially irrational because, so far, there are only 3 Syrian refugees in the entire state.
In times of great crisis, Christians are given an opportunity to show what our beliefs truly mean, to show the world what it is to be a Christian. As Christians, we are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, and visit the imprisoned. These Syrian refugees are hungry, thirsty, naked, and homeless. They are in dire need of our help, as they leave their homeland just on the hope that they will survive. Unfortunately, our irrational fear of people that are different drives us to ignore their pleas. Here in Oklahoma, we are more concerned with putting up a Ten Commandments monument, sharia law, who gets to marry whom, protesting Muslim U.S. veterans’ participation in a Veteran’s Day parade, and what color Starbucks cups are for Christmas. Maybe we shouldn’t #prayforparis or #prayforsyria, maybe, just maybe we should #prayforus, because our actions are not those of a Christian nation or a Christian people.