Evangelicals commit to refugee resettlement efforts

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World Vision's U.S. President Rich Stearns, center, visits with Syrian refugees in Irbid, Jordan. Photo by Jon Warren, courtesy of World Vision

World Vision's U.S. President Rich Stearns, center, visits with Syrian refugees in Irbid, Jordan. Photo by Jon Warren, courtesy of World Vision

WHEATON, Ill. (RNS) Rejecting fearmongering about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S., about 100 evangelical leaders are calling on Christians and their churches “to support ministries showing the love of Jesus to the most vulnerable, those in desperate need, and the hurting.”

“Our statement is to change a narrative of fear and instead focus on faith and compassion,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn. “Our desire is not to resettle everybody in another country. When a house is burning down, we need to put out the fire and rescue people fleeing the fire.”

Meeting on Thursday (Dec. 17) at Wheaton College, outside of Chicago, evangelical leaders said in their statement, “We will motivate and prepare our churches and movements to care for refugees. We will not be motivated by fear but by love for God and others. … We cannot allow voices of fear to dominate. Instead, we commit to actions of love and compassion for refugees.” They said there are nearly 60 million displaced or refugee people worldwide, “a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented size.”

READ: Wheaton College must decide hijab-wearing prof’s future — and its own

The planning event brought together top leaders from World Relief, World Vision, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Wesleyan Church, the Assemblies of God, and more than 50 other groups for dialogue in advance of a larger event on Jan. 20, designed to develop a sustainable Christian response to the global refugee crisis.

In mid-November, the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, and LifeWay Research announced they would convene what they are calling the GC2 Summit, which references the biblical Great Commission and Great Commandment from Jesus to spread the gospel to all nations and exhibit love of neighbor.

Since the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Americans have become more fearful in general. A Dec. 9 NBC/Wall Street Journal survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found that “national security and terrorism” displaced “job creation and the economy” as the No. 1 issue for the federal government to address.

READ: Vice president joins faith leaders in condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric

Much public anxiety has focused on the Obama administration’s plan during the next year to resettle in the U.S. 10,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war in addition to increasing overall refugee resettlement to 85,000, from 70,000 last year. Since October 2010, the U.S. has resettled 2,234 Syrian refugees. A November survey by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of World Vision found that 41 percent of respondents were fearful of Syrian refugees, a rapid rise from the 25 percent figure recorded in October.

In Syria, about 4.4 million people have fled violence to neighboring nations for shelter and safety from the nearly five-year-old civil war. Right now, the conflict in Syria creates more refugees, mostly women and young children, than in any other nation. “Moments like these are when Christians cannot remain silent and still,” the statement said.

“Critical moments like these are opportunities for us to be like Jesus, showing and sharing His love to the hurting and the vulnerable in the midst of this global crisis,” the statement said.

But the Obama administration’s plan to ramp up resettlement of Syrian refugees, which depends largely on nine nonprofit agencies, has faced sharp criticism. In Congress, House Republicans have complained that the mandatory screening of refugees is failing and risks allowing radicalized Muslims to enter the U.S. to carry out violent attacks.

READ: Why evangelicals are torn about admitting refugees to the US (ANALYSIS)

So far, House critics have been unsuccessful in attempts to delay refugee resettlement until new security screening protocols are in place. State governors in Texas and Indiana have also been unsuccessful in stopping resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states this month.

Others have accused refugee resettlement agencies of having a financial conflict of interest in their advocacy for refugee resettlement because the agencies receive a commission when a refugee repays government loans for travel to the U.S. In response, resettlement agency leaders say the commissions that they receive are necessary to sustain their programs operationally.

During a press conference, evangelical leaders said more churches are stepping forward to resettle refugees. Agency leaders emphasized that they offer their services based on need, not religious affiliation.

“We unashamedly want people to see the love of Christ in the actions that we manifest (as) we render aid,” said Frank Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention. “But never is ministry or aid dependent on one’s acceptance of the Gospel message.”

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, the U.S. has spent $4.5 billion on humanitarian assistance inside Syria and in the region, the largest amount of any nation.

(Timothy Morgan is a contributor to RNS)

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  • Tom Snyder

    Christians should oppose resettlement of refugees from Muslim countries in the United States without vetting them first. In fact, they should oppose more mass immigration and support the efforts of indigenous populations to come to Jesus and take over the institution of a Christian free market, with liberty, in their own countries. They should also oppose the socialist welfare state created by Democrats and Republicans, which are short-term solutions that create long-term problems and that destroy the institutions of Marriage and the Family. Jesus supports private charity, families taking care of their own family members, self-education, family education, and personal responsibility. not government handouts and gov’t “education.” http://www.theculturewatch.com/biblical-economics-jesus-supports-private-charity-and-personal-responsibility-not-government-handouts-2

  • Eric

    “Christians should oppose resettlement of refugees from Muslim countries in the United States without vetting them first. In fact, they should oppose more mass immigration and support the efforts of indigenous populations to come to Jesus and take over the institution of a Christian free market, with liberty, in their own countries.”

    Way to miss the point, Tom. Your ill-informed ideas are as unrealistic as they are unChristian.

  • Doc Anthony

    “Actions of love and compassion for refugees” are okay, but elected officials have a moral and legal responsibility to protect the people they are serving, as much as possible.

    Elected officials don’t get to hide behind Christ’s “Great Commission” when terrorism strikes, as with the San Bernadino tragedy. The “vetting process” allowed somebody into our country who should NOT have been there.

    Obama’s own FBI director has admitted that there are “gaps” in Obama’s vetting process. We largely aren’t able to get intelligence on exactly who’s who and what’s what, when it comes to Syrian refugees. In other words, America is flying blind.

    Over 30 governors have said out loud that they need to see that situation change before going along with Obama on this issue. Prov. 27:12 states, “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself; the naive proceed and pay the penalty.”

    Nobody is calling for fear — just a little foresight. Not panic, but prudence.

  • larry

    This is a Poe’s Law post, right?

    There is far too much ignorant wingnut-speak in this to take seriously. I don’t know where to begin.

  • larry

    You put vetting process in quotes because you neither know what is involved, more cared to educate yourself on what it is. The part about the FBI director is probably fiction. America has more experience in settling refugees successfully than virtually any other nation.

    Those governors are appealing to a panicky, ignorant and bigoted voting base in order to score cheap political points on proposals they have no power to enact.

    There is nothing prudent here at all. In fact their nonsense helps terrorists and ISIS. The last thing islamicists want is to see Muslims doing well and thriving in a democratic society. They don’t want to see Muslims integrated into a modern and free nation.

    Those governors and the f00ls backing them are great assets to ISIS.

  • Fran

    It won’t make any difference what governments do or don’t do now concerning immigration, the brotherhood of man, or lack thereof. In the near future, God’s kingdom or heavenly government will intervene in man’s affairs, replacing all of man’s governments (Daniel 2:44).

    That government, with Jesus as King, will put an end to all wicked ones and rule over man with righteousness peace, love and justice (Isaiah 11:1-11; Micah 4:3,4).

    True brotherhood of man will only come about and thrive through that government, uniting meek people of all races, cultures and nations (Psalm 37:10,11).

  • Richard Chavarria

    Article says there are over 60 million refugees in the world. Shall we take them all into the US? Of course not! There will always be people in dire straits. I would probably be more positive about this when I read that these 100 leaders bring a Muslim family into their homes. As a Christian, I would be much more inclined to get involved if I knew of the opportunity to support a Syrian Christian family. We are to support the brethren first.

  • ‘Christian Free Market,’ really? Do you know how the free market was introduced in Chile in 1973? There was a military coup, sponsored by the US, and a brutal military dicator, who would later be indicted for crimes against humanity, replaced a democratically elected leader? A similar story occurred in Argentina in the 1970s

    Do you know how the Free Market was maintained in Russia during its early years? Yeltsin dissolved Parliament, which had opposed the free market, using tanks.

    What is happening here with our freem market? A ever growing wealth disparity that did not occur during the Bretton-Woods, post WW II years. In addition, a possibly economic fatal condition of exploding national debt as well as the 2008 economic collapse were all due to the “Christian Free Market.”

    One of the biggest dangers we American Christians face is that of conflating of America’s status quo with the Gospel. And thus we have terms like ‘Christian Free Market.’