The Moral Issue You Shouldn’t Dismiss

 

Skittles. The son of a Presidential nominee compared Syrian refugees to Skittles this summer.

“If I had a bowlful of Skittles and told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful? That is our Syrian refugee problem.”  – Monster Junior 

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Take that in for a moment. He compared human beings to candy.

As if that wasn’t the worst part of it, the photographer, David Kittos, who’s photo was stolen and used without permission, was ironically a child refugee who came to the UK in 1974 due to conflict in Cyprus. Stolen photo used in propaganda against human lives by someone who was a refugee. He filed a lawsuit this week. You can see the dehumanizing way his photo was manipulated to try and hurt some of the most vulnerable people on earth, refugees, here.

The Skittles people responded with a message:

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Syrian refugee problem?! The only problem I see is how to serve such a great humanitarian crisis and how to stretch compassion with a lack of cooperation from everyone.

“We don’t know who they are,” that nominee has said all year in reference to the US resettling refugees.

More than half of the US governors around the country have been trying to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees since the Paris attacks in November 2015 including Texas’ fight with a federal judge over and over and it. has. been. driving. me. NUTS. 

Today I turned on NPR and a caller was being asked why she was voting the way she was planning to vote and the whole conversation centered around refugees and safety. She quoted how unsafe Germany had been and how we are in the same position if we keep accepting refugees like Europe.

AUGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I honestly feel like I am about to have a full-on tantrum every time I hear someone say that because of one basic fact:

NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT WHEN THEY SAY THESE THINGS ABOUT REFUGEES. 

Refugees have been used as a political tool to get votes because the most powerful emotion in America is fear. I have heard more lies than I can count this year. More on our struggle with fear in another post. I have a lot more to say on that subject but if I could pause from my rant for one moment, look you deep in the eyes, hold onto your shoulders and say: “I am so sorry.” I would. I am so sorry for those of you who have been victimized by the media and politicians to feel fearful all the time about foreigners, refugees, and especially Muslims. It makes me sad for two reasons. One is that fear, I know from those who struggle with anxiety, is a crippling feeling. That really is rubbish.

The second reason I wish I could grab your shoulders and say I am sorry is I wish I could give you an insight into my memories and experiences because they are SO good. I have spent a lot of time making friends with Muslims for the last 15 years and I have NEVER felt afraid. In fact, Middle Eastern friends and Muslim friends (they are not always one and the same) have been some of my dearest, most loyal friends over the years and I wish you could taste some of what I have tasted (outside of all of their delicious food! Relationships we are talking about here) you would not be afraid of Muslim refugees arriving here or Middle Eastern refugees arriving here, but you would be overjoyed that you could make your town their home too.

Back to my rant, since I am on the verge of going mad over here, could you please humour my rant for just a moment and let me make some corrections or else, I might burst. It would bless my soul if you could also share this blog with someone today – facebook, twitter, email, text… just because the lies and lack of fact checking are giving me a heart attack.

 

  1. Terminology. The “refugees in Europe” are NOT the same as the way the US uses the word refugee. In the US, it is a legal status. As papers have written about the European crisis, we are talking about their flight status. ANY governor who has wanted to keep Syrians out of Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Michigan because “of the Paris attacks” is a fool who has not gotten their facts straight. The news outlets and anyone repeating them SHOULD distinguish “refugee” from “asylum seeker.” Let me explain. Europe is attached to Asia and a boat ride away from Africa which means that people have been able to flee by land or sea to arrive on a safer continent in droves the last year or two. They are technically refugees because they are fleeing violence. screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-11-40-58-pmHowever, within the UN is a technical term for their LEGAL STATUS which is the word “refugee” and it is only AFTER someone has gone through a two-year process of vetting to get that title, after which they are eligible for resettlement. The term refugee is one that really only is applied after the UN has recognized they are on the run and cannot return. This means most of what we see on the shores and cities of Europe are asylum seekers unless they have been cleared to stay and vetted. Many have not had time to apply for refugee status. These asylees that are fleeing for their lives should be cared for and taken in but they have not all been vetted because they have the access to get there themselves. Terrible, life endangering access mind you, holding the bottom of a train for 17 hours or in a raft that might sink, but Europe is just close enough to get to themselves if they pay a hefty fee to a people smuggler who could abandon them, kill them or rape them in exchange for putting their family’s lives in his hands. The US uses the term “refugee” to talk about people who have been resettled through the  US Office of Refugee Resettlement and have a legal status of refugee through the UN’s program. You can read about them here. Just because English uses the same words does not mean it means the same thing. Living life for 11 years in the UK, I can assure you that. When the US talks about the term refugee, it is one of the 85,000 refugees this calendar year who have applied for the status through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and has been vetted by 5 of our security agencies, many interviews later, have been given permission to resettle here, signed a promissory note that they will repay their flight to the US government in six months, the US has contacted one of the nine resettlement agencies around the country and submitted their paperwork to them so that when they show up in Akron Ohio for example- World Relief or International Institute know a LOT about them. In the US. we know who refugees are because in the US, “refugee” is a legal term by which there is no more difficult way to enter the US then as an officially resettled refugee. 

Are you one of these governors or in one of these states? You should be ashamed of yourself if you are a governor reading this. It is your job to get the facts before you speak. Great power comes with great responsibility. Write your governor and say you don’t want refugees used as a manipulative tool to play on peoples’ fears just so they can win elections. It is a moral tragedy. 

2. Did you know that a refugee goes through 14 steps over 18-24 months before they can be resettled including 5 security steps? Watch the process here in 4 minutes.

3. The Paris attacks were NOT done by Syrians or refugees. They were done by Belgian and French nationals.  Why is that lie still being repeated? Bad journalism. We don’t check our sources and human lives are at stake.

3. Did you know the average refugee spends 17 years in a refugee camp? Yes. Syria has been in the news because we are fearful Americans and we think ISIS is coming for us. Syrians often need to leave quickly because the civil war turned into even more chaos in their country with the advent of ISIS and multiple types of war are being fought at once. However, people displacement has been happening since forever. There are 10 million stateless people who actually have no country that will give them citizenship. The Bhutanese Nepalis that are in Akron and around the US are some of those people. 3 generations ago the Bhutan government invited the Lotshampa people from Nepal to come farm the land. They did and then in the 1990s the government passed a One State One People policy and began to terribly persecute them and drive them out. (It is always bad when we demonize a people group different than us.) They were driven back to Nepal and Nepal refused to recognize them as citizens (much like I am guessing Sweden would not recognize me as a citizen after my grandmother came to the US as a child in the 1920s). They lived in refugee camps in Nepal hosted by the UN for 20 + years without citizenship to any state. They have been resettled around the world as the camps have been slowly emptied.

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4. The US Refugee Resettlement program has been in place since just after WWII. It is NOT “Obama’s refugee program.” Please stop making this a partisan issue. It was started in 1951 in response to the crisis the war created. You can read here. This was a few years after we sent back a whole boat full of Jewish refugees who ended up dying in the holocaust. Did you know Otto Frank, applied to come here and was rejected by the US before him and his family died in a concentration camp after being hidden behind a book case in a wall and found out? Oh, and in WWII we were terrified Jewish refugees would be blackmailed into being German double agents. Can you imagine? After what Germany was doing to them? The fearful lie we are believing about Syrians has been used before just for a different war and a different people group. History MATTERS.

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Anti-immigrant propaganda that is in a US history museum in DC :

March 1890 The Proposed Emigrant Dumping Site.

Statue of Liberty: “Mr. Windum, if you are going to make this island a garbage heap, I am going back to France.” 

 

Just read this and meditate on our history repeating itself for a moment. It makes me feel ill to read it. It makes me feel even more ill to think we repeat this over and over.

5. If you are a Christian, God’s Word, the Bible should be your supreme authority. Not a political party, Fox News, what your governor or senator says, or even what that famous pastor of choice you listen to online. If he disagrees with God’s word, he is wrong.  The Bible talks about the foreigner from cover to cover. We have no excuse for not welcoming people with open arms. Fear of safety is a bad excuse. Also, in my previous points, I have shown you it is an unfounded fear.

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt”. Deuteronomy 10:18 

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 22:21

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:5

“remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world…..Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” Ephesians 2:12,19

” For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:35-40 Read the whole chapter if you are brave. I cut out the bits about judgment if you do the opposite of this. 

6. Uh, one more thing Christians, Jesus was a refugee. Remember that whole flight to Egypt because Herod wanted him dead as a child? Yep.

 

7. If you fight for the right to life of the unborn and want to promote legislation to block out refugees from your state or country, you have lost your moral authority. Both are death sentences. A political campaign comparing refugees to Skittles shows zero respect for the sanctity of human life. If you want to live for your own safety over the safety of those fleeing from conflict zones, you are forgetting the gospel. We do not live for our safety but to pour out our lives to serve Jesus and others.

8. If you are a Christian, we believe Jesus died for and loves Muslims. How do you validate the argument to keep them out of the US?

9. Contrary to popular sentiment of “we don’t know who they are.” Yes, we do. It is talking out of your ass* to say that. You cannot say that until you tell me what is missing in the vetting process. While there are different stages of development in the types of countries that have refugees (some very underdeveloped while others are the developed world) we have some of the best spy services in the world. The world is one giant footprint of social media right now. Syria is a developed country being ravaged by war the last 4 years. Every Syrian I know is all over social media. It is not hard to figure out who people are. If I can stalk potential dates from eHarmony online and find out wayyy too many details about a stranger with the data of their first name, city, and a few random facts (just to make sure they aren’t lying serial killers, come on, a girl has to be safe now!), the US government-spy-producer-of-the-world can properly vet people.

*I lived in England for a decade plus where ass is not a swear word in case anyone would be distracted by my language. Let’s not forget the important topic at hand.

Americans. Do not be duped. Your safety has been a campaign strategy and a wicked one at that because it is pushing you to flee from doing good.

10. Refugees are eligible to work as soon as they arrive here. This is good because the government gives them a small stipend that has to cover everything – rent, food, bills (about $1200 for the first 90 days) then they are on their own and responsible for their own costs. Oh, and if you are worried about taking American jobs, immigrants are twice as likely to start a business as a native born American. It is the worst and crassest reason to be supportive of refugee resettlement but the US is not completely altruistic. It is good for our economy because it out pays itself in returns.

11. The total number of refugees globally at the end of 2015 reached 65.3 million — or one out of every 113 people on Earth, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The number represents a 5.8 million increase on the year before. It is more than after WWII. The US is NOT taking on an inordinate amount. If we look at the mass amount of asylum seekers being allowed into Germany, they are doing much more. If we look at Jordan and Turkey heaving with displaced people, we have much more to offer. That is not even counting all the other countries in the world where refugees are being resettled from that have not made the news because they aren’t in the middle east. (Akron is home now to the Karen, Nepali, and Congolese in large numbers).

12. We are taking 85,000 this year and worried about a few that “might be terrorists.” My next door neighbor might be a terrorist. I don’t know. I don’t live worrying about that. The campaign trail has thrown about numbers all over the place about the number of refugees or number of Syrians coming that have been grossly exaggerated. In 1980 the US took 205,000. We could increase our numbers surely. Coming to the US as an official refugee would be the worst strategy ever. It would be much quicker to come on a tourist visa to visit Disney world.

13. If we are going to address terror in a serious way, we would address struggling youth who were born in the US, UK and other parts of Europe who are disenfranchised and angry. Those are the most likely people to be funneled into terror groups. Why don’t politicians spend more time asking why Americans are causing terror here? (Boston, Orlando, Fort Hood) That would be a more strategic use of our time.

Instead, we blame the most vulnerable because it’s a good campaign strategy to strike fear into voters so they will vote for our team instead of the other team. Consider that.

14. “I will keep you safe” is a lie. In fact, I am going to use the Biblical word of “it is idolatry.” We have been promised that the world can be controlled, terrorism can be ended and we will be safe if one candidate is elected. If you are a humanist, please tell me how we can predict that or control that, just statistically? If you are a Christian, we believe in a fallen and depraved world and in a God who is sovereign over that world but that we are very much NOT in control. When we try to control the outcomes, it always ends in idolatry. Christian, do not make public safety your idol. Instead, live in the reality that we have no control of our safety but choose to live by faith and love and hope instead.

 

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A year and a half ago I was invited by my church to return home to pioneer a way for our church to serve and welcome the refugees being resettled in Akron. It has been a joy and privilege to be a part of a rag tag band of volunteers to launch Crossings together, learning all of these facts as we went along. As refugees have crossed cultures and oceans to come here, we want to mobilize the American church to cross the street or cultural barrier to welcome our new neighbours. We are outserved every week by those who are arriving here that we are seeking to serve. Crazy how that works.

Don’t miss out on the friendships and joy. Don’t miss out on the gospel at work. Do not miss out on what God has to teach you through the people arriving here. Tell someone who needs to hear this today.

 

 

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That book called Judges..

Covering the whole book of Judges in 2 days you learn:

1. We are bad.
2. No, seriously, we are REALLY bad.
3. The worst most horrible scenes in the Bible are in the book of Judges.
4. The line: “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” is eerily profound.
5. Judges is one of those books that often gets the most criticism from people “God did that!?” God condoned that?!!?” Nope. If you read it systematically you see the point of the book: this is what they were like without God as king.
6. Then if you are really honest you think, this is what WE are like without God as king.
7. You are not the first one to be mastered by sexual sin. Samson, was owned by his appetites for beautiful women and God both allowed judgment to come on him for his foolishness as well as great grace.
8. Men, don’t fall for a woman who is a whiny manipulator.
9. One of the few good judges and leaders of Israel was a woman. Go Deborah!
10. God still uses broken, sinful, people and gives them incredible grace.

#seminaryreflections #Judges

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