By Nathan Fosnough
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the governmental handling of international refugees. With the Syrian refugee crisis exploding the number of displaced peoples from the Middle East, western governments have been scrambling to find the best way to provide help to these individuals. Policies on this sort of matter have not been in short hand over the past couple decades.
The Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted in 1952. The INA collected provisions and reorganized the structure of immigration law, and it has had been amended and added to over the years. One of those additions was the Refugee Act of 1980, created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program. The goal of this program was to provide for the effective resettlement of refugees and to assist them to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible after arriving in the United States.
Over the past generation, we as Americans have appeared not to think much about the refugees entering our country until the Syrian War began displacing vast amounts of people. A question that has arisen recently is: what should be done about these displaced peoples?
Or even more specifically, what should Christians do in response?
Providing aid is a primary and instinctual concern by both governments and Christians. Helping refugees who need the basic amenities of food, shelter and clothes along with security from persecutions is a difficult task. Do we send help there? Do we accept everyone here into our country? Some of the questions are difficult, and there are many different answers for each, all with fair reasoning.
But many troubles appear no matter the course of action taken. Troubles arise when sending aid to refugee camps in that food has been used as a weapon, with some monetary aid diverted onto black markets or into government-approved areas (BBC). There are also problems with accepting vast amounts of refugees. Assimilation of values and cultural segregation are two of these problems.
We always desire clear-cut and easy solutions that are simple and make things right. Unfortunately, it is hard to come to a consensus on what solution entails all of these things from a policy standpoint. Fortunately, Christians can look into the Bible for some practical actions that should be taken.
Christians should promote values consistent with biblical principles. Loving your neighbor as yourself implies not mistreating others. Leviticus, Zechariah, Deuteronomy and Numbers all have commands telling us not to mistreat foreigners who live in the land alongside us and not to oppress them but to show kindness and mercy toward them. New Testament writings like Hebrews preach the same set of values in that we should be welcoming of strangers in our homes.
Being open to welcoming strangers despite differences in culture, background, race and religious affiliation can be difficult. Christians are called to do this in order to stand out from those who do not, allowing God to display His glory through us.
But there are things we must be careful about. Security and protection are real concerns, not only for ourselves but for the refugees. Loving and taking care of those who are displaced does not imply that all displaced people should be welcomed into a society without acknowledgement of what their cultures values. For example, we do not want people who are racist or people who think cannibalism is a great idea to live among us if we can help it.
Overall, there are several different ways Christians can respond to refugees, whether internationally or locally. As long as the principle of loving another as yourself is applied, the moral imperative of the Christian can be fulfilled. The form it may take, however, can vary creatively, but one thing is certain: Christians need to respond one way or another.