Following the Paris terrorist attacks a new concern has risen with the discovery that at least one terrorist slipped in among refugees fleeing war in Syria and the Middle East. In response, at least half of American governors, including Georgia, said their state will not accept those refugees.
Critics immediately jumped at the fact that the overwhelming majority of governors were Republicans representing conservative states, quoting Bible passages such as Leviticus 19:34 in advocacy for the refugee seeking asylum. The entire situation has proven to have its sticky points for both sides of the political aisle, as Democratic candidates in the latest debate over the weekend refused to use the term “radical Islam” when discussing the Paris attacks.
Georgia Baptists weighed in on Twitter, with Augusta-area pastor Brad Whitt asking a question relating to another aspect of the crisis:
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta pastor Bryant Wright had this to say:
Two hours after being placed online a poll on The Index’s Twitter account had 80% of respondents agreeing with Governor Nathan Deal’s stance on not accepting any more Syrian refugees. The governor also called on Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security to confirm the backgrounds of the 59 Syrian refugees already resettled in the state.
Despite the proclamations, governors technically don’t have the power to prevent refugees from reaching their state. Once refugees are granted status in the country by the federal government they are free to travel where they please. What determines where they go are various agencies assisting them and whether – according to the level of cooperation of the government – it’s more prudent to place those refugees in another state.
Federal monies, on the other hand, can be used to place refugees in any state. Florida governor Rick Scott, in response, has asked Congress to “take immediate and aggressive action to prevent President Obama and his administration from using any federal tax dollars to fund the relocation.”
As many as 9 million have fled Syria since war overtook the country in 2011. Although over 681,000 have been granted assylum applications in Europe, that number only represents a little more than 10% of those displaced when factoring in how many have gone to Syria’s neighboring countries.
World Relief, a part of the National Association of Evangelicals, urged caution in a rhetoric that could shut doors to refugees and their chance to hear the Gospel.
“As information about these attacks continues to pour in, we ask that Christians and churches across the United States continue to pioneer the way for a compassionate response to the ongoing refugee crisis,” said Stephan Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief. “The only way to fight this darkness is by offering these refugees the love and light of Jesus Christ. Instead of allowing ourselves to be consumed by fear, we must ground ourselves in love and open our arms to these refugees. It would be a mistake to shut out all refugees who have been victims of the same sort of terror inflicted last week upon Paris and Beirut based on these concerns.”
A statement released by World Relief and joining Bauman’s comments added, “While many U.S. state governments are calling for a moratorium on refugees coming to their states, we urge local communities to continue to welcome all refugees.”
Citing World Relief in that a lengthy vetting process of 18 months accompanies each refugee, Jerry Baker of GBC Intercultural Church Planting and Missions Ministries said, “I have personally met Christian Syrian refugees in Atlanta who are part of Arabic Baptist churches. They are some of the 2,500 who have entered the U.S. in recent years.
“We need great prayer, wisdom, and ministry during these days.”