The international refugee crisis has erupted in the American political campaign–and in the American church.
While many are warning about the risks of admitting throngs of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, some in the Christian community are promoting this time as a Good Samaritan opportunity to love the strangers from another land.
Church leaders sometimes find themselves caught between compassion for the displaced, and consideration for congregation members who feel threatened by terrorism that may come with an influx of immigrants.
World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, commissioned a survey among pastors about the refugee issue. They found that 86 percent agreed that Christians have a “responsibility to care sacrificially for refugees and other foreigners.” But only 8 percent of the surveyed congregations are doing anything to serve refugees in their communities. And less than 20 percent are actively serving the needs of refugees internationally.
World Relief’s director of church mobilization, Matthew Soerens, said, “There’s a pretty big gap between our theology and our practice–how we apply our theology.” He said the gap comes from Americans’ fears about refugee issues right now.
Even with the rise of ISIS and its hideous forms of terrorism, Soerens says the church’s first question about welcoming refugees should not be, “Is it safe?” Rather, he argues, the question should be, “Who is our neighbor?” He said, “Our response has to be one of love, even if it’s not always safe.”
On this week’s Holy Soup Podcast, I asked Soerens if Christians’ love shouldn’t also extend to their families and fellow citizens who may be put at risk by evil-doers who may attempt to infiltrate the exodus of refugees from Syria. Hear his response here:
For many decades the American church has played a key role in the resettlement of refugees from troubled parts of the world. Many of these immigrants were introduced to Jesus Christ through the church’s acts of love. Christian organizations such as World Vision and World Relief have many success stories to tell, and many ways for churches and individuals to help displaced people around the world.
But many people believe we’re living in an entirely new age today. The threat of terrorism is too palpable and pervasive now, they say. Even with enhanced screening, some believe this is not the time to increase the flow the refugees.
What do you think? What’s the Christian responsibility right now? Is this the ultimate challenge to show the world what it means to be a Good Samaritan? Or should we instead support the resettlement work in other countries? Or is this the time to secure our borders, avoid the problems other countries have experienced with increased migration, and protect our homeland?