A majority of the nation’s governors have declared that their states will no longer welcome refugees from Syria. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block resettlement of Syrians for an undetermined length of time, demanding that the State Department revamp its already comprehensive and strict vetting process.
Meanwhile, CLINIC affiliates around the country are finding themselves under scrutiny and sometimes threatened as they provide resettlement, orientation and legal services to refugees. This work is rooted in their sense of mission and is done under contract to the federal government.
Catholic social teaching about refugees is derived from a long biblical foundation in the idea that people on the move – refugees, immigrants and all migrants – are special in the eyes of God and that God’s followers have an obligation to help and protect them. Indeed, during Advent we are reminded of Mary and Joseph’s difficult search for lodging as they traveled away from their home while awaiting the birth of their child. Scripture readings of the Christmas season tell us of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt to escape a tyrannical ruler who threatened the life of Jesus.
Other Scripture passages such as the parable of the Good Samaritan emphasize the obligation to protect the vulnerable, even when they are of other cultures or religions.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and many of our partner organizations have weighed in with letters and statements asking political leaders to reconsider this unnecessarily harsh scapegoating of a highly vulnerable population.
CLINC Executive Director Jeanne Atkinson has signed onto two of these documents. One letter pleads with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to reconsider his opposition to Syrian refugees in the state and uphold Maryland’s tradition of welcoming those who flee persecution and death.
“Closing the door to refugees would be disastrous and a rejection of some of our most fundamental values. We are not made unsafe by the presence of Syrian refugees among us.”
The second, a call to prayer and action from faith-based institutions, condemns calls by governors to close their states to Syrian refugees and decries proposals to discriminate against refugees on the basis of religion.
“The Statue of Liberty is not etched with the message ‘Christians only.’”
Additional materials to help people, churches and other organizations respond to this issue include:
- A toolkit prepared by the Justice for Immigrants program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It includes links to statements by bishops and suggestions for raising the issue with members of Congress;
- This infographic from the White House, explaining the steps for a refugee to be screened and admitted to the United States;
- A backgrounder telling the stories of some of the Syrians who have been assisted by Catholic Relief Services.
Photo Credit: World Relief