Refugee Resettlement: Balancing Compassion With Discernment

faina_dinner

Refugees from DR Congo enjoy lunch at the Weatherly house one Sunday after church. Photo courtesy of Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel.

I have been a volunteer with a refugee resettlement agency in Knoxville, Tennessee since January 2014. My family and I welcome refugees to our city by taking them to get their Social Security cards or medical screenings and I teach ESL one day a week. We have also welcomed refugees into our home for meals from many different countries over the past 22 months. We have done our best to befriend these newcomers to our city so that they will have the best possible chance to be integrated into American culture. I want my children to have a compassionate heart for persecuted peoples and people of all nationalities.

refugee_protest

Unrest at a European train station

Over the course of the last few months as the migrant crisis in Europe escalated, I have found myself in a state of anxiety about what the future may hold for Western Europe. I have friends and family in Germany who are singing a different tune today than they had been last year. In January, when I asked their opinion about welcoming refugees, they seemed very open to assisting them. Now, they said their whole country is being changed and they are worried that Germany will not be able to cope. When I see YouTube videos uploaded almost daily by regular citizens showing brawls in migrant camps or of heated protests between Germans over the refugee crisis , I feel anguish. Some of these refugees who have fled persecution in the Middle East are expressing heartache that the very violence they fled has followed them to Europe because of the open borders.

My own feelings towards refugee resettlement are being transformed before my very eyes as I struggle with what I know to be morally right: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’ Yet, my greatest prayer is for my own children to grow up in a country that is secure from the threats and terrorism that we see in the Middle East. As a mother, how can I deny this same hope to a Syrian mother? 

parisMy heart has become in even greater anguish because of the turn of events over the past week: Paris attacked by terrorists possibly from many different countries. And in the wake of that, thousands of Facebook users changed their Profile Pic to that of France’s flag colors. I changed my Profile Pic in solidarity as well. But not everyone stands in solidarity with France. An Iraqi refugee family that has been living in the U.S. for 18 months (father, mother, 2 grown sons, 2 high school sons) that my own family befriended chose to change their Profile Pics to the colors of the Iraqi flag. Under one of the grown son’s profile pic, his mother (a woman that I have shared many dinners with) wrote in Arabic: ‘Go to hell, America. May God curse America and Israel to hell.’ I replied with a warning to use great caution when making online curses against a country that has taken them in, provided them with refuge, financial assistance and free education. Up to this point, there was no indication that there were any negative feelings toward the U.S. I took them to be very friendly, engaged, thankful refugees.I am still in shock over the French attacks and over my “friend’s” post. Because of all the emotion and confusion I’m experiencing, I deactivated my Facebook account, but not before screenshotting this damning post and reporting it to the refugee resettlement agency. 

syrianRefegees2_2374507bWhat are my thoughts now about allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States? Six months ago, I would have rolled out the red carpet for them. Now, I am hesitant. I believe that we need to use extreme caution about who we allow in the United States if we want to continue living with freedom and pleasant ease. We need to include difficult questions in the vetting process, such as: What are your thoughts on American culture? Will you be willing to adjust your lives to Western society and teach your children to value our values? Will you promise to learn English as quickly as possible and integrate into your local community? And maybe one of the toughest questions to ask of Muslim refugees: What is your prayer for Israel? Some may cry that this question is too personal and unfair, but I believe it cannot be ignored. Why is it important to ask this question? If a Muslim cannot suppress his hatred for Jews, then he should not be permitted to immigrate here. To live in a modern, welcoming society, all nationalities and religions must be protected and valued. If Syrian refugees would like us to accept them into our country, then they need to be ready to lock arms, neighbor to neighbor, with people groups they may have a cultural or religious aversion to: Christians, Jews and homosexuals. They don’t have to agree with those peoples’ religions and values, but they need to be willing to join this great American melting pot. If refugees cannot do this, then the United States should not be encroached upon to accept them in our midst. It would not mean that we rejected them, rather it would mean that they rejected us.

Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New YorkI believe that the United States government should not downplay the anxiety voiced by its citizens regarding Syrian refugees. President Obama recently stated, in reference to many Governors wanting to deny entry to Syrian refugees: “Apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion… They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns.” Personally, I am not a politician nor do I speak for Republicans; I am speaking as a concerned mother who would love nothing more than to continue offering hospitality to persecuted refugees, trusting that my government’s scrutiny in refugee vetting has ensured my safety. I am not attempting to drum up unnecessary fear to advance a campaign. There are not many Americans who can say that they have opened their home to share meals with Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans, as my family has done. We are not naive to the dangers that Islamic extremists have carried out and continue threatening to carry out. Having a sympathetic heart towards the persecuted is heroic, but demonstrating collective discernment towards the admittance of refugees promotes a love for humanity even more courageous than immediate displays of compassion. We owe it to our own citizens- as well as Syrian refugees who are seeking refuge here- that this great country will continue to be a safe haven for future generations.

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About Brenda Weatherly

Christian wife and mother to 7 children. Board of Directors at Center of Light, Team Leader of Woodlawn Refugee Ministry.
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81 Responses to Refugee Resettlement: Balancing Compassion With Discernment

  1. Gina says:

    “Six months ago, I would have rolled out the red carpet for them. Now, I am hesitant. I believe that we need to use extreme caution about who we allow in the United States if we want to continue living with freedom and pleasant ease.” Well said! I have stayed quiet on this issue because I am unsure & hesitant as well.

    • Thanks for your reply, Gina!

    • nancy says:

      I’m sorry to disagree, but your blog presumes that there is some such thing as safety. There is not. It also presumes that if we keep refugees out that we also keep the bad guys out. Also not true. They are here, they are coming (refugees or not) and they are recruiting over the internet. I don’t see how that relieves us of our Biblical responsibilities to care for those who suffer.

      • I am not presuming safety; I merely would like to ensure that the people we bring here are properly vetted. There has been and always will be violence in our country, whether from our own citizens or from immigrants. I agree that there is a Biblical responsibility to care for those who suffer, but I’m not going to throw myself in the face of danger. Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. It is Biblical to be shrewd and discerning.

      • vicki says:

        I have to comment because I feel you missed what Jesus said…he said “I am sending you out”…not telling you not to get involved.
        From what I understand (i have had several friends that have had to go thru immigration and none had an easy go of it), it takes 2 – 3 years for the vetting process. I don’t imagine that would be a terrorist easiest route.
        I think tourist visas would be more their choice.
        In our own history, consider the plight of those affected by the dust bowl back in the 1930s and how they were treated. Have you ever lived in a tent encampment for an extended period of time with your children? I know I would be extremely grumpy and not happy at finding out how people don’t want me anywhere.
        I can’t speak for your former friend but i imagine she went thru the same vetting process as all other refugees have.
        The real point for Christians is what does God say to do. Does he not say he is the one that will provide safety? Has he not done so for his children up until now?
        I do wonder why America doesn’t seem to be referenced in Revolutions…whatever the reason, he has written out the outcome for us all.

      • Hi Vicki, I’ll reply to your comment in different sections as you brought up different points. Your points will be in bold. I will answer after that.
        1) I have to comment because I feel you missed what Jesus said…he said “I am sending you out”…not telling you not to get involved. I’m confused. Did something in my blog post make you think that I no longer wanted to be involved in refugee ministry? This is my passion and it will continue being so.
        2) From what I understand (i have had several friends that have had to go thru immigration and none had an easy go of it), it takes 2 – 3 years for the vetting process. I don’t imagine that would be a terrorist easiest route.
        I think tourist visas would be more their choice.
        Tourist visa or refugee visa…Both of those are extremely difficult to be approved for. My concern is if the vetting process is sped up for Syrian refugees to enter the United States. I don’t think we should expedite the process.
        3) In our own history, consider the plight of those affected by the dust bowl back in the 1930s and how they were treated. Have you ever lived in a tent encampment for an extended period of time with your children? I know I would be extremely grumpy and not happy at finding out how people don’t want me anywhere. No, I have never lived in a tent encampment, but The Dust Bowl has affected my family personally. Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side immigrated to California at the height of the Dust Bowl. My grandmother’s younger sister was born in a tent surrounded by cotton fields. No electricity or running water. My grandpa had a 7th grade education. Of course it made for grumpy conditions, but I doubt they felt the need to pray that America would burn in Hell. They loved this country because they were Americans at heart.
        4) The real point for Christians is what does God say to do. Does he not say he is the one that will provide safety? Has he not done so for his children up until now? I wish it were as easy as applying a formula about what God says to do in this situation. My trust is in God, not the government, but as an American citizen, I can still have a voice for how my country is operated. Even Paul claimed his Roman citizenship as a reason to not be beaten.

    • Thank you with all of my heart for this thoughtful response to all we are facing in our world and here in America. You truly have a balanced view on how to wisely love both the refugee AND American citizens….something I haven’t seen much of as of late. I too am so concerned and will stand with you in prayer for my children’s future and the world’s. God bless you and keep you as you work in Christ’s name in TN. May Jesus come soon!

  2. rick killion says:

    Great article! I agree – if they can’t pledge to live in peace with Jews and homosexuals in their neighborhood here – then it’s them rejecting us, not vice versa.

  3. James Goller says:

    Great article, Brenda. Will miss your voice on Facebook, so keep these coming! You are right that I hadn’t considered the question of whether they were willing to make an effort to fit into our society. I agree with you and they must be willing to accept our diverse and open culture.

    I don’t want this to sound like rhetoric, but I do believe that if we allow ourselves to live in terror then the terrorists will have won. We are a strong nation, and need to be brave. We must do what we know is right even if there is a risk involved. Trust in the power of good. Trust in love. It will overcome.

    • Thanks, James, for the comment. I’m sure that I’ll return to Facebook when things have simmered down a little.
      I really wish it were as easy as saying not to live in terror. I applaud the French people for being brave and continuing to visit the city’s attractions. I know that we here in the U.S. will do the same thing. But being brave does have an expiration date. That is why there are refugees. Refugees are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met, but terror does wear a person down. It gnaws away at the human spirit. It does not play by the rules.

      • i really appreciate your post. i don’t know you, but a facebook friend shared this post. i do not associate with a major political party, and i find myself frustrated that many of my fb friends who want to close the borders are Republican as are nearly all of the governors that say they won’t take any refugees. i fear this is becoming a political issue. we need to continue to take these people in but properly! is the screening we have perfect?? ha! no!!! not in the least!! particularly as your experience has shown. but terrorists will get here one way or another. they HAVE gotten here and will continue to no matter what it takes or how we try to keep it from happening. Where there’s a will for them to spread evil, they will find a way – – look at the Mali attack this morning with terrorists posting as diplomats! That said, how do we turn our backs on millions of innocent refugees because one or two might sneak in with them? i simply can’t imagine there is an solution, but shutting our doors can’t be the answer.
        thank you for taking time to write this. it’s refreshing and very helpful to read from someone with direct experience with refugees and doesn’t seem to conflate them with terrorists.
        I must give pause, though, to the statement: If Syrian refugees would like us to accept them into our country, then they need to be ready to lock arms, neighbor to neighbor, with people groups they may have a cultural or religious aversion to: Christians, Jews and homosexuals. I have found some of the most bigoted people, with respect to homosexuals and even African Americans, to be Christians I know and am related to. Do you think is a fair statement? I don’t remember that last time most of the born again Christians I know would EVER lock arms in solidarity with a gay person.
        thanks for your consideration of my question. fantastic point of view. oh, and i’m unplugging from fb for the weekend b/c i can’t take the stress of all of this. i hope i can find it in me to take after you and go away for longer!
        tiffany

      • Thanks for commenting on my blog post. I’m thankful that you found my post refreshing and helpful.
        I agree with you- and have found the same to be true- that some of the most bigoted people I have ever met are those who claim to be Christian. I don’t know how it’s possible to claim to be a Jesus-follower and hate your fellow man, but those folks do exist. You are correct that they wouldn’t lock arms, neighbor to neighbor, with a homosexual or African American, but they have the right, as American citizens, to be vocal in their stupidity. I think it’s essential to invite refugees here who are in agreement with Western thought so that we can be ensured that our democratic values will be upheld.
        Enjoy your weekend break from FB!

  4. Jan says:

    Hi Brenda – I found your post through a share on face book. You have put words to how I feel in my heart. Thank you for that. Also, what your “friend” posted against America is nothing short of treason!
    Here is the US Code for Treason:
    U.S. Code › Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 115 › § 2381
    Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

    (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

    You would be a great voice to Congress! I hope you will forward your thoughts on!
    I hope you will return to facebook!
    xo Jan

  5. Judith Johnston says:

    Brenda, what a well-thought out and well-written article. Great work! Your point that refugees must be willing to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views should be a basic requirement to be allowed to emigrate here.
    The living in terror comment….we’re in NYC until Monday and the latest ISIS threat does give one pause to reflect.

    • Thanks so much for the positive comments! Please be safe while there in NYC. I believe that this year’s Macy’s Day Parade and lighting of the Times Square will see much higher security than the last few years.

  6. Judy says:

    Brenda, I also found your post through a share on facebook. My husband and I appreciate what you have written. May we send a copy of your article to our state government leaders?

  7. Joe says:

    Brenda, One thing I would ask you to consider? You know all those questions you listed in your article that the refugee needs to answer in order to reassure you? I have one additional question, for you. What do we do if they LIE??

    • Joe, I’d love to reply to your comment, but I’m not sure if you’re asking this question sincerely to have an engaging, thoughtful dialogue or if you are asking me in such a way as to try and lure me into a debate. Of course I understand the probability that prospective refugees may lie on their application. The government is obviously aware of this, too. I am somewhat familiar with the refugee vetting process;I have spoken with dozens of refugees about their experiences and I serve on the Auxiliary Committee for the refugee agency. Without going into a long, drawn-out explanation of the process, there are ways to verify the history and backgrounds of refugees beyond just simply asking questions. There are years of interviews, background checks, in-depth research of even their social media postings (for those who are active in social media). I feel more comfortable allowing someone to come to the U.S. who has shown that they have been put in life-threatening situations because of their allegiance to the United States, i.e., interpreters/translators, those in high-security clearance positions for the U.S. government, etc. For prospective refugees who have absolutely no way to confirm these details, that is who I would be concerned about allowing in the U.S.

  8. Ms Lisa says:

    Thanks for a balanced, honest opinion on this issue. As an immigrant, I had to go through a vetting process. Friends and relatives had to vouch for the authenticity of my marriage, my husband and I had separate interviews with immigration officials to validate our versions of the information we provided, not to mention the countless documents and fees we had to submit. I wouldn’t change a thing. The process needs to be thorough – for EVERYONE who wants to immigrate. You bring up some excellent points. As a wife and mother, I also feel torn between a desire for compassion and a need for security. I will be sharing your post of facebook, since you’ve expressed this feeling so well.

    • My grandmother was also an immigrant and had to go through a lengthy process to become a citizen. I am thankful for that process because my grandmother was one of the most patriotic people I have ever met. She knew more about the workings of our government and Constitution than most American-born citizens. Thanks for sharing my post. 🙂

    • thank you for sharing your experience, Lisa!

  9. Thank you so much. I have been torn on what to say and how to teach my children to respond. I want to honor God with both deep compassion for others who need refuge, and fierce protection for my children. I am trying not to live with fear snugged up to my heart (especially with a son planning to join the Marine Corps after graduation next year), but even Jesus was cautious around those who sought to kill Him when it was not yet His time. I keep praying for wisdom, for discernment, for my children to remember I taught them to run in a zig zag line should it be necessary, for love, and to always know where the exits are. Strange prayers these days. I never thought we would be here, not even after 9/11. May God help us all. Thanks again.

    • Yes, this issue is one that stirs up a lot of passion in us mothers! My son served 4 years in the Navy and is thinking about going back in to serve in the National Guard as an officer. I understand your desire for wanting to protect your children- especially a son who may join the Marine Corps. I struggle with holding on to burdens that I know the Lord would not want me to carry. I pray for more childlike faith and joy in the midst of a world that seems to be devolving into chaos and terror. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  10. Robert Stamey says:

    Superb article! Well thought through…the best insight I have read yet! Thanks for posting this. It helped me.

  11. mike sullivan says:

    So you reported “God curse America and Israel” to the FBI? Yes, it was likely inappropriate for someone to say who was now living in the US, but isn’t freedom of speech guaranteed even for refugees? I appreciate your compassion and friendship towards refugees, but please don’t deny them the rights inherent to being here just because you don’t believe in their opinion.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mike. Of course I believe that refugees have freedom of speech, but refugees are not given all of the same rights as an American citizen. Refugees cannot vote. Refugees cannot freely travel outside of our borders because they may not be permitted to re-enter the country. The Facebook post my ‘friend’ made went beyond “God curse America and Israel.” It was a lengthy paragraph that resulted in many heated, private messages with one of the sons. I hope that you will never know the anguish I have experienced at sharing a friendship with someone you thought was trustworthy, only to find out that they have an alter-personality online that wishes for the demise of your country. I will never deny inherent, basic rights to a refugee- I, of all people, with my lengthy history of providing for basic needs of refugees when most other Americans have done nothing- should not be given this guilt trip. My conscience is clear, knowing that those threats did not need to be kept confidential.

  12. J Gordon says:

    You make excellent points about balancing compassion with concern.

    While there are millions of Muslims parents who would never consider doing so, there are many others who encourage their children to strap bombs to their bodies or stab and shoot innocent strangers. I would rather those families not be settled here.

    While these particular folks might pass a written test easily with deceit, I doubt that they could pass a personal interview with a skilled interviewer when asked those questions. Facial expressions and body language would give them away. Excellent idea!

  13. I feel the issue today, as I read this morning on one of the newscasts that a girl, estimated to be no more than 10 years old carried out a suicide attack killing 19. This puts another twist to the issue.

  14. melsbabysis says:

    You have to remember that Americans and Muslims live by very different standards. Muslims live by the Qur’an. At the end of the day, they will ALWAYS follow the Qur’an. No matter what you do, when the time comes, that Muslim “friend” WILL kill you, if called to do so. Stop following you heart in this matter and use wisdom.

  15. kharris says:

    Very thoughtful & IMPORTANT piece you wrote! It needs to be shared with many others. Our family also volunteered with Bridge in Knoxville ( through our church) many, many years ago and like you we felt so honored to help and work with grateful people who wanted nothing more than to be in America & become American. It was an especially important mission for us because our children were international adoptees and we were close with the immigrant community. Through Bridge we had one very successful placement of a family ( from eastern Europe) who now is a absolute American family is every sense of the term; but we also had a not so good experience with another family ( not European) and that experience changed our view also. Not everyone who accepts our hospitality appreciates it or wants it and therefore not every refugee, no matter how desperate, deserves to have the welcome mat of America placed before them. Sad but true. I thank you for your honesty and for taking he time to write and share your very important message.

  16. georgia says:

    you are so right in treating the situation you found yourself in with a supposed “friend”. I hope and pray that our leaders take note and act accordingly with caution. We do not want another Boston marathon or even the young man who brought the suitcase to school only to create havoc, at least he and his family returned to their country of choice.

  17. Rhonda says:

    I had no idea the United States had “refugee resettlement agencies” – or that ordinary citizens could play a role in helping refugees. How would I go about finding such an agency?

  18. Gus Lohrum says:

    Your article was helpful food for thought for my sermon. Thanks, Pastor Gus

  19. Alice B says:

    Please consider the Koran folks, the Surahs tell all the believers to lie in order to obtain their objective, the Caliphate. I believe it is Surah 29, the book instructs all of Islam to do what is necessary to establish the Caliphate, period.
    Naivete is the road to destruction, Christianity is leading us down the wrong road as far as Islam is concerned. 73% of these “refugees are military aged men. 58 actual Christians have been allowed into the US as opposed to some 8k Muslims, why do you suppose that is?
    Start doing your homework on the infiltration of the MB at the highest levels of Government.
    These people are not fleeing, this is an invasion.
    Read the Daily Mail and you will find that wives and children have been left behind in Syria.
    Do not let your sense of charity override the fundamental fact that you are Americans first, you were given the freedom to worship by our forefathers, do not let piety warp your sense of unanimity as Citizens of the United States of America.
    Focus your charity at home.
    I am a Mother and a Roman Catholic. In this case, I am AN AMERICAN.

    • I know what the Quran says. I have read large portions of it. I do not get all of my information from internet sources, as it sounds like you may, because 73% of the refugees coming here are not military-aged men. I have seen the official statistics for Syrian refugees and it would only be 2%. Nevertheless, my whole article was about wanting to make sure the people who come here are properly vetted- especially those 2% of single men. I have a feeling that no matter what I say to you, you will be “right” because you sound very opinionated. But please do not say that I am not an American first. I am speaking as the wife of a military vet, my son served 4 years in the military, as did my grandfather in WWII and many generations of men all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

  20. Grady says:

    First off, thanks for the post. It is one of the first ones I have read that both urges caution and treats Syrian refugees like people to be loved instead of terrorists to be hated. I do have a few thoughts on it though.

    As far as the Facebook profile picture change, the day before Paris there was a similar ISIS attack in Beirut that killed over 40 people, almost nobody covered it and Facebook didn’t have a Lebanon flag option. After Paris, terrorists in Mali took 170 hostages and 21 died when they were stormed by commandos. Again, no coverage, no facebook flag option. To someone non-European or American, it seems as if the world doesn’t care when terrorists attack them. ISIS attacks Iraq every day, so updating your profile picture to the Iraqi flag could easily be showing solidarity with ISIS victims in Iraq (or worldwide), and could still be very anti-ISIS. I don’t know the guy so I don’t know, but if he wanted to support ISIS he could change his profile picture to the ISIS flag.

    As far as his mother’s comments, I’m glad you reported them, but without talking to her (and reading the rest of the paragraph you reference above), I don’t know how much I’d read into them. Someone could have called her a towelhead %^*#$ terrorist and told her to go back to the hellhole she came from while she was on the way home, and if she responded with a angry Facebook message she would not be the first. I certainly think it should be looked into, but if you thought you were friends I might give her a call.

    And finally, sincerely thank you for all the concrete work you are doing to aid refugees. It makes our country better and shows Christ to them, and to the rest of American’s who are mainly seeing fearful hate from Christians right now.

    And I have a blogpost of my own I’m considering posting on this topic, and I would really appreciate some feedback before I post it. If you’re interested shoot me an Email (I assume you can get it from this post since it is your blog, but if not comment and I’ll post it).

    • Grady, Thanks for the positive comment. I know where you’re coming about there not being a lot of coverage for the Beirut attack or a lot of outrage over the Mali attack in comparison to what happened in Paris. I believe there are several reasons for this, one of them being that France is, at its core, a beacon of freedom and democracy and so it was like a punch in the gut. The comments made by my “friends” were something that I felt could not be ignored. I did call them out on it publicly under the Profile Pic and then it was turned over to private FB messages.

      I would love to read your prospective blogpost about this topic. You can email it to me at brenda.weatherly@yahoo.com and I will reply with my opinion within 24 hours. Thanks again for a kind, thoughtful conversation.

  21. Fred Watt says:

    Followed a link from a Facebook post.

    I’m on board with you right up to the point where you insist potential refugees be asked, “What is your prayer for Israel?” The framing of that question is rife with implications which would ignore (or “penalize”) quite legitimate positions.

    What if they don’t have a prayer for Israel?

    What if their position on (the nation state of) Israel has nothing to do with Jews, Judaism and/or anti-Semitism? Are you aware, for example, that in Iran, Judaism is one of the legal religions and is (at least officially) tolerated and allowed to be practiced unmolested?

    Are you aware that Arab Christians and Muslims are themselves Semites?

    Are you aware that there are many non-Muslims (self included) who do not subscribe to the modern, evangelical view that the nation state of Israel somehow fulfills Matthew 24’s reference to the fig tree?

    Are you aware that equating a person’s political views regarding Israel to a wish for violence upon others (any others) is a non sequitur? Truth is, I do not need to embrace any ideology or religion or lifestyle – be it Christian, Muslim, Jew, homosexual, transexual, etc. – to simply tolerate them and not wish them harm.

    Are you aware that there are orthodox Jews who don’t believe the state of Israel should exist, or that Jews should have any independent homeland set up especially for them?

    I guess my point is that there can be any number of reasons for not following the western evangelecal script with regard to Israel that doesn’t necessarily mean a person represents any great risk to his fellow man…here, there, or anywhere. And if that is going to be included in the questioning, then you might as well forget the idea of taking any of them in. Because it would be rare indeed to find a Syrian, or any Arab or Persian, for that matter, who believes what you do with regard to Israel. And this is not a reason to deny them refugee status.

    That said, your other points are germane and, yes, refreshing. Thank you.

    • Thank-you, Fred, for your insightful comments. I do realize that to ask the question, ‘What is your prayer for Israel?’simplifies the complexity of the issue. My point was that, generally speaking, there is a deep-seated disdain for Israel by many Muslims from the Middle East. I am familiar with Iranian Jews having legal rights, but I am also aware that they are in the minority and most Iranians would not be pleased with the thought of more Jews populating their country. I was not aware that Muslims were Semitic; many Jews would disagree and say that Muslims are Hamitic because their “mother” was not a Semite. I am not asking for Middle Easterners to believe the same things that I do in regard to Israel, but I would like to know that their actions towards Jews living in the United States would be peaceful, respectful and possibly even brotherly. If a refugee has no intention of fully immersing in American culture, it wouldn’t be to their benefit nor ours to extend refugee status to them.

      • Fred Watt says:

        Quick clarification: When I said “…Arab Christians and Muslims are themselves Semites” I meant that to be understood as Arab Christians and Arab Muslims…meaning Arabs are Semites. Being Muslim is a choice, so it has no bearing on a person’s Semitic or non-Semitic nature.

        RE: “…many Jews would disagree and say that Muslims are Hamitic because their “mother” was not a Semite.”

        If that were the case, then the word “Semite” (Shemite) would have zero meaning to begin with. For one thing, we have no idea who the wives of Arpaschad, Shelah, Peleg, etc. were and the line could easily have been compromised well before Hagar. For that matter, Shem’s wife clearly was not Semite. To further complicate matters, modern Jews can’t even trace their lineage back to one of the specific twelve tribes…much less back to Abraham…or Shem. No, this argument is a non-starter on so many levels. You’re either descended from Shem or you’re not.

        RE: “…but I would like to know that their actions towards Jews living in the United States would be peaceful,…”

        Then I think you should word it that way. In fact, the question should not be isolated to Jews; it should include Christians, Buddhists, Hindi…even atheists. This would remove the geo-political and genetic elements from the argument altogether and narrow the focus to the more practical and cultural aspects of becoming American and respecting the freedom of religion of all people.

        Again, other than that one line of questioning, I think you’ve done a good job framing the debate. I just think this one aspect compromises your case, and I think you may be letting your own evangelical position regarding the nation-state of Israel dictate more than you realize.

  22. ken says:

    Perhaps we should take in the Syrian and Iraqi Christians en masse. They are a persecuted minority who are not likely to blow themselves up in the name of their religion.

  23. Vicki says:

    Brenda
    I couldn’t reply to your comment above so I’m posting here and have included the entire conversation. Sorry I can’t bold anything so I hope you can decipher the answers:
    Hi Vicki, I’ll reply to your comment in different sections as you brought up different points. Your points will be in bold. I will answer after that.
    1) I have to comment because I feel you missed what Jesus said…he said “I am sending you out”…not telling you not to get involved. I’m confused. Did something in my blog post make you think that I no longer wanted to be involved in refugee ministry? This is my passion and it will continue being so.

    I agree that there is a Biblical responsibility to care for those who suffer, but I’m not going to throw myself in the face of danger. Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.
    I was responding to your reply to Nancy. When Jesus said these words he was sending out the 12 among the Jews (their own people). The crucial point is that the disciples were to get involved. Your blog is discussing a larger issue than you volunteering. You are giving your thoughts on how you feel about allowing the Syrian refugees into the US. If America turns away help then there is no need to be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves as we won’t be interacting with these people (if applying the scripture to this situation).

    2) From what I understand (i have had several friends that have had to go thru immigration and none had an easy go of it), it takes 2 – 3 years for the vetting process. I don’t imagine that would be a terrorist easiest route.
    I think tourist visas would be more their choice. Tourist visa or refugee visa…Both of those are extremely difficult to be approved for. My concern is if the vetting process is sped up for Syrian refugees to enter the United States. I don’t think we should expedite the process.

    If terrorists want to come to the US, these visas are much easier to get than going through the vetting process to come as a refugee. If I recall correctly the 9/11 terrorists were here on visas. My guess though is that American recruits would be the ones more apt to do violence here…as the European recruits did in Paris. As for speeding up the process, I’ve worked for the govt (state and county) and speedy is NOT a valued trait. Right now I’m dealing with the V.A. for my mother-in-law to get survivor benefits…6 months and still no answer.
    The govt. could speed up and actually become efficient without jeopardizing the safety of its citizens. Two years is a long time to wait to get out of a tent and into a new location. I imagine many of these people would prefer to stay in their own country and would return once it is safe to do so.

    3) In our own history, consider the plight of those affected by the dust bowl back in the 1930s and how they were treated. Have you ever lived in a tent encampment for an extended period of time with your children? I know I would be extremely grumpy and not happy at finding out how people don’t want me anywhere. No, I have never lived in a tent encampment, but The Dust Bowl has affected my family personally. Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side immigrated to California at the height of the Dust Bowl. My grandmother’s younger sister was born in a tent surrounded by cotton fields. No electricity or running water. My grandpa had a 7th grade education. Of course it made for grumpy conditions, but I doubt they felt the need to pray that America would burn in Hell. They loved this country because they were Americans at heart.

    I’m sure your grandparents would understand better than most the situation and the immediate need these refugees have. And also the prejudice experienced from Americans, people of their own country. The Japanese Americans during WWII where treated horribly because of fear…have we not learned anything? – disregarding the Christian aspect.

    4) The real point for Christians is what does God say to do. Does he not say he is the one that will provide safety? Has he not done so for his children up until now? I wish it were as easy as applying a formula about what God says to do in this situation. My trust is in God, not the government, but as an American citizen, I can still have a voice for how my country is operated. Even Paul claimed his Roman citizenship as a reason to not be beaten.

    Of course you have a voice and a vote which puts your voice into action. But the treatment of these refugees is not an American thing, it is a command given by God if you are a Christian – love your neighbor as you love yourself. It’s the second commandment right after loving the Lord your God with every part of you.
    Faith/trust is a formula (Hebrews 11) and it is the only formula. Trusting God to do what he says he will do without the benefit of us understanding or seeing at the moment (if ever). Our lives and our children’s lives are in God’s hands. Our safety is also in his hands…we are to do what he tells us to do regardless as to how scary it may seem. Finish reading Matthew 10 and apply it to this situation and see if your heart may be strengthened.
    As for Paul using his citizenship, I believe he did that so he could stand in front of the Roman court and present the message he preached of Christ. He was beaten so many times, I don’t think he was backing out of that one.

    • Hi Vicki,
      Thanks for your in-depth response. Sometimes it takes me a little longer to reply because of pressing needs at home, but I will respond to a few of your points. I think we’re in agreement on many of the issues. However, when you say, “The govt. could speed up and actually become efficient without jeopardizing the safety of its citizens. Two years is a long time to wait to get out of a tent and into a new location. I imagine many of these people would prefer to stay in their own country and would return once it is safe to do so”, I hesitate on expediting the process simply because a refugee is living in a camp. Of course, living in a camp is far from an ideal living situation, but 2 years is really not that long of a time compared to the wait of many other refugees- 5 years, 10 years, etc. We really need to take into consideration the fact that some of the Syrian refugees may not want to relocate to the United States; they simply want refuge and safety from war. It is easier said than done for a refugee family to return to Syria from the United States when the war is over. Airfare is extremely costly. Couple that with the fact that every refugee that moves to the United States must repay the loan for the airfare to move here in the first place. It is simply not a viable or affordable option to expect refugees, after an extensive and costly time of vetting and interviews, to move here temporarily and then move back. To me, that seems more chaotic and traumatic than being housed in improved living conditions in a country nearer to home with a culture they are comfortable with.

  24. John says:

    Hi Brenda,
    From the other side of the globe I find your writing on this delicate subject to be quite considered.
    People are so confused as to whether they are right to deny those who may bring harm. I wanted to add, as food for thought, that the Samaritan paid an innkeeper, and well (2 coins), and had this been done in the Syrian surrounds there would probably not be the problem we have. The parable did not include the Samaritan taking the victim back home to a strange land and demanding to set what could be a dangerous person among his neighbors children. No, I haven’t heard that parable.

    • Hi John, thanks for the comment. Your analogy of the parable of the Good Samaritan is one that I hadn’t thought of. Very clever. 🙂 I personally believe that many of these Syrian refugees would probably prefer to stay nearer to their homeland and wait until the war is over so they can return to their beloved home. In contrast to your point are Jesus’ words: ‘I was a stranger and you invited me in.’ I believe there is a time and place for inviting refugees in to our countries. But you are right, there may be other options that would better benefit both the Good Samaritan and victim.

      • John says:

        Not to justify my feelings, but in a way examine them…. Now that they have declared their beliefs to you, are they still strangers, or importantly, are others who declare their belief strangers to you?

  25. Thomas J cavanagh says:

    I respect your point of view. But we have over 2 million homeless vets in this country. We have a VA system that is killing vets. Those who served to protect this nation deserve the compassion, the deserve the housing, they deserve to eat, and the medical care. We should set up a safe zone in Syria . We do not need terrorist being feed and housed in our nation.

    • Thomas, speaking as the wife of a Navy veteran and as the mother of a Navy veteran who is in the process of joining the National Guard to serve as an officer, I wholeheartedly stand in agreement with you that our country must make a higher priority of caring for the needs of its vets. We need to address mental health issues, such as why are these vets homeless to begin with? Why are so many committing suicide? I also stand in wholehearted agreement with your statement, “Those who served to protect this nation deserve the compassion, the deserve the housing, they deserve to eat, and the medical care”. Did you know that there are 50,000 Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who worked alongside our military who have been waiting for years to be approved for Special Immigrant Visas because their lives are in grave danger of death because of their work for our government? They also deserve the compassion, care and refuge that our government promised them for their services. Before allowing Syrian refugees here, my vote is to allow these interpreters to come here. They have already proven their allegiance. They are being overlooked by our government at their time of greatest need. Chris Kyle, the “American Sniper”, called his interpreter ‘the American hero’ because he saved the lives of many more SEALS than did Chris. Not all Iraqis and Afghans are terrorists. Our military men and women who served alongside of these brave interpreters can vouch for that. I encourage you to read the book ‘To Be A Friend Is Fatal‘ or to read a few articles (here) and (here) about our responsibility to protect and provide refuge to the men who served our nation at the greatest of risks. If America is not willing to stand by our promise to protect the ‘terps, then we should no longer use their services in future campaigns.

  26. ronfurg says:

    Dear Brenda — I want to join the chorus of those thanking you for your thoughtful, insightful, and balanced article. The article itself and the replies and your responses are an absolute education on the issue and I for one applaud you for your wise Christian stance and attitude. Blessings to you as you faithfully serve Him. <

  27. ronfurg says:

    Reblogged this on Ronfurg's Blog and commented:
    Here is a thoughtful, insightful, and balanced article on the current Syrian refugee situation. The comments and responses by Ms. Weatherly are also instructive. The blog post appeared at brendaweatherly.wordpress.com.

  28. Pingback: Refugee Resettlement: Balancing Compassion With Discernment | Ronfurg's Blog

  29. Always refreshing to see a nuanced view. How few we find these days.

    I think your post addresses a number of issues with an overriding theme: that our arms should be open but not unconditionally and we should be vigilant after the fact at monitoring. In that way, we can be true to our values as well as exercising appropriate caution.

  30. Dude, there are *Americans* unwilling to lock arms with Christians, Jews, and homosexuals. Last night white supremacists shot up a black lives matter protest. Just last week Asatru terrorists (you read that right) were arrested for plotting to foment a race war for their imaginary friend Odin. Someone is setting churches on fire. Kids are shooting up churches. I have more to worry about from the Peckerwoods and Aryan Nations adherents in my own backyard. Someone (not the Vagos) terrorized Hemet in 2010: “Attempts on officers’ lives included booby-traps attached to squad cars, a gas line routed into an office building and a bazooka rocket — which turned out to be a dud — fired from a rooftop.”

    How many Syrian refugees have committed terrorist acts? None. Zero. Nada. Should I write that in Arabic?

    • I’m grateful to see that you are so concerned and appalled by the violence inflicted by our own citizens. It’s also a breathe of fresh air to see that you are a fellow refugee advocate and exhibit such an intense passion for refugees. Is this passion displayed in action or merely words? May I ask how many Muslim refugees you have personally hosted in your own home?

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  32. Sherry VanderMolen says:

    Brenda –

    Thank you for your post. I appreciate that you shared your own experience and thought process and have shown us your heart and compassion as we all struggle towards new understandings. I have not visited your site before but look forward to it in the future. I appreciate the dialog being facilitated here. A special thank you to your husband and son – we are grateful for their service.

    Sherry

  33. sandytatham says:

    Great post, thank you, Brenda! I had a similar experience in Perth Australia in 2001 teaching English to male refugees (Iraqi, Iranian, Afghani) who had arrived by boat in NW Australia. For the whole year that I volunteered through a church group to help socialise these men, I knew that all but one of the men totally disapproved of me as a single independent female. They were never thankful, didn’t even offer me tea, and expected everything as their right, even to be driven to the airport to fly to Sydney and Melbourne to join other Muslim refugees. Last year one very similar man held 16 people hostage in a cafe in Sydney, and there have been many other acts of Islamic-linked terrorism since then. I think you are very wise to be very discerning. I am watching the situation in Australia with sadness.

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