#SyrianRefugees: The Dangerous Effects of Fear-Mongering

#SyrianRefugees: The Dangerous Effects of Fear-Mongering November 24, 2015
Photo credit: MaximilianV / Foter.com / CC BY
Syrian refugee / Photo credit: MaximilianV / Foter.com / CC BY

This is a wonderful round up of resources from Sr. Anne on the Syrian refugee crisis. She also analyzes the danger of fear-mongering, the influence of which I saw in abundance in my combox in a recent piece I wrote on the subject: 10 Quotes: What Does Our Faith Say About the #SyriaRefugee Crisis? 

We cannot allow fear to short-circuit our Christian virtue. No matter what we choose to believe in the end about policy, our opinions must be informed by the Christian worldview and an effort to see others as human beings made in God’s image and likeness. – Sr. Theresa Aletheia

By Sr. Anne Flanagan, FSP

The refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe has been building up over the past two and a half years, reaching a point now where definitive action needs to be taken. But the terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, Mali, Nigeria (am I forgetting some of them?) put the requirements of national security foremost in everyone’s minds.

With little to restrain them in the way of conscience, the Paris terrorists (European citizens, all) carried a fake Syrian passport into the fray, ensuring that the refugees now in Europe would shoulder some of the blame and thus face even greater challenges than they did surviving a sea crossing in dinghies and rafts.

Here in the US, we are not getting refugees washed up on our shores (
though that did happen in 1994, with refugees from Cuba), but the conversations are nonetheless very heated. Every last refugee, down to the “three year old orphan” is now being seen as a terrorist.

Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge, which recently placed two Syrian families in Louisiana, has even been getting phoned-in threats from people who are convinced that we are facing an honest-to-God invasion. There are genuine (and founded) concerns that all those seeking refugee status be properly vetted, and worries about immigrant enclaves forming beachhead communities where our national unity and “way of life” may begin to be undermined through the practice of foreign (i.e. Islamic) law and the force of custom.

I am as confounded as the next person about which steps need to be taken. One step I am sure must not be taken, however, is to accept the judgments of those who portray everything in the starkest terms, especially those who use dehumanizing language that belittles the human dignity of the people whose lives are already in such precarious circumstances. After all, what we across the ocean may fear as a possibility is a reality for tens of thousands of refugees (half of whom, reports indicate are women and children under the age of 17): loss of home, livelihood, family members, security, education. And one thing the fear-mongers neglect to say is that keeping young people in precarious conditions is a sure-fire way of filling their hearts with resentment and preparing them to accept terrorist ideology. In other words, American fear-mongers are doing ISIS’ work for them.

Over the past ten or so days, I have found many very informative articles online about the refugee “vetting” process and other issues related to the current events. I am trying to draw on different sources, and not to rely on one or another ideologically-driven news source. It is hard to get solid news about the fate of Christians in the various refugee settings, both in the Middle East and in Europe; there are some indications that the Christians are suffering marginalization and persecution and are avoiding the UN sponsored settlements for refugees. (Unfortunately, this means their numbers are not counted, and their possibility for being considered for refugee status is ruled out.)

Here is some of what I have found  helpful:

What’s at Stake:
Pope Francis and Paris Archbishop respond to the attacks,
remind that violence in the name of religion is blasphemy. 
American Cardinal says ISIS intent on wiping out all Christians in Middle East 
6 Reasons to Welcome Refugees after Paris

Personal Experiences:
Iraqi nun, herself a refugee from the first Gulf war, offers words of insight (including this warning: “While I understand why people would want to react this way out of fear for what they have seen, but by closing our doors to all the victims of ISIS, we are only giving ISIS even more power. In a very real sense, they have succeeded in terrorizing us.”

Refugee Resettlement: Balancing Compassion with Discernment: a volunteer with a refugee service offers caution, seeing even long-established refugee families turning bitter as this new crisis unfolds amid harsh rhetoric.
Syrian Christian refugee in Jordan gets help at a Catholic hospital while hoping (against hope?) to be united with his daughter in California.
Syrian Christian dad talks about sending his kids to school in the morning, not knowing if they will survive the day

Information about Refugee processes:
Immigration lawyer explains the refugee process 
Corrects some common misunderstandings (and “outright lies”). 
Three important facts about the US process

Guidance from the Bishops:
President of US Bishops’ Conference statement (September)
Statement from Cardinal O’Malley (Boston) on openness to refugees after the Paris attacks
Bishop Malone (Buffalo) offers some advice and a wonderful prayer: why not make that prayer part of your Advent practice?

Catholic aid organizations actively addressing the crisis in Syria and other nations in the Middle East:
Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land  
Sovereign Order of Malta 
Catholic Near East Welfare Association


sranne_smSister Anne Flanagan, a Daughter of St Paul, a native of New Orleans, is author of Five Keys to Understanding Pope Francis. She has also recorded over two dozen albums as a soprano in the Daughters of St Paul choir. Follow her on Twitter @nunblogger. She blogs at Nun Blog.

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