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Friday, November 20, 2015

Dueling Banjos Play While Syrian Refugees Hope To Survive

What is at stake are hope and even life for those Syrians who would seek to find refuge here. We should note the kind of people we are talking about. The Syrians have already put most nations to shame when it comes to helping refugees. For that is what they did while our nation was creating between 3.5 million to 5 million refugees when we invaded Iraq (clich here). Most of the refugees went to either Syria or Jordan. And as of 2010, at least 1 million of them were in Syria (click here). But now that it is their turn to need help, they're finding that they may have already received their payment from the world with a pat on the back as nations decide whether to  accept them.

Of course there have been Christians weighing in on the issue of accepting Syrian refugees. On the side of being more reluctant out  of sense of fear/responsibility to allowing Syrian refugees here is an blogpost written by Bill Blankschaen (click here). How reluctant Blanschaen is is not quite clear since his post lacked specifics. But by the tone of it, he seems to want the Church and our nation to err way on the side of caution when it comes to allowing Syrian refugees. 

A position that seems, details are lacking again, to be more in the middle are article written by Gospel Coalition writers Kevin DeYoung and Trevin Wax (click here and there). It seems like the purpose of their articles/posts is to at least mention the counterbalance between the two main competing issues involved in accepting Syrian Refugees: the government's responsibility to keep its own citizens safe and secure,  and a call to show compassion to those in need. And finally we have a Christianity Today article, written by Mark Galli, that represents the view that leans toward throwing the doors of our nation wide open to the refugees (click here).

What else do we know or not know. Thus far we know that of Paris assailants who have been identified, not one of them is a Syrian citizen. There was some confusion because of a fake passport that was found in the aftermath of the attack. In fact, not only were the known attackers not Syrian, they were all citizens of European nations (click here). Should we now refuse Europeans entry into our nation?

There is something that we do not know which some of us think we know. In Trevin Wax's article, Wax makes the following statement about ISIS and its terrorism:
As we denounce these acts of violence with every fiber of our being, we cannot ignore the fundamental religious nature of this clash of worldviews. Whether or not we believe the Islamic State to be the inheritor of “true Islam” or a cruel distortion that is ravaging the world, there is no question that theology lies at the heart of today’s terrorist activity.

If the driving forces for ISIS are the same as what the driving forces have been the driving forces for Al-Qaeda, Wax's assessment here needs to be severely challenged. Why? Just by the looks of it, it assumes that the key difference between what members of ISIS have experienced and what peaceful members of any other part of the world have experienced revolves around religion. This assumes that war and failed governments have nothing to do with what created ISIS.  Such is a huge assumption. This was discussed in Tuesday's blogpost (click here).

In addition, what Tuesday's blogpost quoted from Jason Burke's book, Al-Qaeda: The True Story Of Radical Islam states that it is the combination of serious grievances plus a failed and deaf political system along with being on the receiving side of violence that can make one a terrorist, it isn't religion that does that. After all, history shows that representatives of all of the major religions have been involved in terrorism/war. During the British Mandate, Jewish terrorists were attacking both Arab and British targets. In addition, many would easily call Israel's attacks on the Palestinians acts of terrorism too. American Christians have, in the name of patriotism, often supported unnecessary wars such as the Vietnam War and George W. Bush's Iraq War. And of course, allegedly, depending on whom one is speaking with, representing Islam are groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

There are several points to note here. The first point of course, which has already been mentioned, is the alleged ties between ISIS and Islam. That the members of ISIS are Muslims does not prove that ISIS comes from Islam any more than the religious identity of KKK members prove that the KKK is a Christian group--a point that has been made several times in Facebook posts. Again, as in Wax's statement that was examined earlier, such takes for granted the effects that the political and social contexts that were set in a war have on ISIS members and their sympathizers.

Second, we should note that, as Nicholas Wolterstorff often points out, when it comes to helping the vulnerable including the alien, we are no longer just dealing with issues of compassion, we are also dealing with issues of justice. And when dealing with issues of justice regarding refugees, we are no longer dealing with freedom of choice in terms of what we shall share or not share, we are dealing with what do we owe the Syrian refugees. For when we do not give them what we owe, we are visiting injustice on them.

Finally, we should note that there is a point of continuity between taking any other position than a generous one toward allowing Syrian refugees into America and one of the justifications of the Iraq War. We should remember that one of the ways the Bush Administration defended America's invasion of Iraq was that the invasion allowed us to fight the terrorists there, rather than here. And now, many of those who supported that war want to keep Syrian refugees out America for the same reason. It's as if we are saying to the world: 'Yes, we will do what we can to oppose terrorism regardless of the price others must pay as long as we are not attacked on our own soil.' Was it ironic or predictable that the war we fought to keep terrorism away from our doorstep is now, because of its role in creating ISIS, threatening to bring terrorism to where we live. And instead of reflecting on what we might have done to contribute to this new threat, we prefer to externalize evil by how we assoicate the new king of terrorism, ISIS, with either the religion or national identity of those who are different from us.




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