America has welcomed 3 million immigrants since 1975. — President Obama
I’ve seen a few memes floating around the internet lately saying that we shouldn’t let Syrians into the country, because a few Syrians committed acts of terrorism in France. Some European countries have also expressed the same sentiment.
Quite frankly, that’s a load of bull.
You can’t condemn an entire population because of the actions of a few extremists.
No, we shouldn’t.
So why should we condemn innocent Syrians for what a few people did?
I speak from personal experience.
My father’s family immigrated to America in the 1950s from Lithuania – at that time, Lithuania was part of everyone’s favorite Communist country, Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, commonly known as the USSR. My grandfather, grandmother and father were welcomed with (somewhat) open arms*. My grandfather became a police officer in New York, and he grew a fabulous garden in their backyard. Does that sound like work of a communist to you?
No, it sounds like any normal American.
If my father’s family wasn’t allowed into the country, I wouldn’t have been born. My younger sister wouldn’t be the business office manager in Indiana. My nephew wouldn’t have turned 25 this year.
So why should refugees be treated any differently? All they want is a chance to live in peace – a chance to raise their families, to go to the grocery store without stepping over piles of concrete, worrying about mortars striking them, living in squalid camps.
Do you know to best way to fight terrorism? Not with guns and bombs and armies, but with compassion & grace.
Think about it.
Pretend you’re in an abusive relationship – not only are you threatened, but your children are living in fear, and your job is at risk because of the abuser. You phone a friend and ask if your family can stay with them a while, until you can get back on your feet. Friend refuses, says because Abuser is abusive, you and your children must be abusive too. Instead, they go to your home and beat up Abuser, which makes them as angry as bees in a shattered beehive. You’re sent home, only for the violence to get worse because you sought help elsewhere. You start to resent Friend for turning you away, and your children begin to hate them as well. Other children pick up on this as well.
But if Friend welcomed you with open arms, gave you a second chance, you would feel gratitude. Your children would adore your friend for rescuing their parent – you.
You tell other friends in similar situations how Friend helped you get out of a bad situation, and they go to Friend for help as well. Now there are 5 safe families, away from those who would hurt them. Once the abusers have left, some of those families move back home – even though bad things happened there, it is still a place of love and comfort. Some other families choose to stay near Friend, wanting to escape the past.
But you? You love Friend for everything they’ve done for you. You become an advocate for Friend, telling people to forgive Friend for being a pest and getting into everyone else’s business, for having a crazy family, for being a bit nosy. And people start to believe you – not because you feel obligated, but because everyone knows that deep down, Friend is a good, loving, compassionate person.
Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. —Matthews 5:42
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. — Luke 6:38
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8
And my favorite:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. — 1 John 3:17-8.
Don’t forget what is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, a gift from our friend France, a sign of our willingness to help others in need:
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!
Preach love, not hatred. Preach peace, not war. Preach compassion, not bigotry.
Around 60% of Syrians are jobless and around the same proportion live in extreme poverty, meaning that they cannot afford the basics they need to stay alive, according to the UN-backed report.
More reading on Syria:
- Syria’s civil war: Images of horror (CBS News)
- This is What Life in Syria is Like After Four Years of War (Buzzfeed)
- How Four Years of Civil War Has Destroyed Syria (Newsweek)
*Except for our last name, the original pronunciation sounds German, but I digress.