Practicing What We Preach: Welcoming Syrian Refugees

Joe Press Conference - SLIDER

Joe Phelps shared the following statement at the press conference on December 8, 2015, surrounded by fellow clergy at Kentucky Refugee Ministries.  Read more coverage from the day’s events: Baptist News, Courier-Journal

Standing before you is a diverse group of religious leaders from the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. Though we hold differing views on a great many matters we are drawn together today to stand united in our support of refugees, especially Syrian refugees who fled their homelands in the face of political and military terrorism.

In the name of the religious traditions in which American ideals are rooted, we oppose the position taken by Kentucky Gov-elect Matt Bevin, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and other political leaders across the nation against our states receiving Syrian refugees in their hour of need.

As clergy we call upon all people of faith in Kentucky and Indiana to practice what we preach: to place our trust in God and to obey God’s clear commands found in all of our sacred texts; and to join other nations in welcoming Syrian refugees.

Many in our faith communities are understandably fearful in the wake of the recent attacks on innocent people in places like Paris, Mali and San Bernadino. But fear does not excuse us from our calling as people of faith to welcome refugees fleeing war even at the risk of our own safety.

No religion makes faithfulness optional when it becomes inconvenient or unsafe. God’s love and human love are always risky and costly. Absolute security is unattainable and unrealistic. Feelings of fear must be faced with spiritual courage to do the right thing at the right time. Now is the right time for American people of faith to do the right thing— even if the right thing results in risk to our lives and our security.

  • In the Hebrew Bible, “You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).
  • In the New Testament, Jesus “Truly, I say to you, as you [fed, clothed, aided, liberated] one of the least of these you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
  • From the Quran 4:36: “Serve God, do good to orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near you, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer you meet, and those who have nothing.”

We are not cavalier about danger to innocent people. We want no person hurt or killed. But the US has effective policies to insure that it does not open its doors to terrorists. As the leaders of Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Catholic Charities can confirm: it takes 18 months to two years of careful scrutiny for refugees to be approved for entry into the US.

Overwhelmingly, Syrian refugees are ordinary people caught in the crossfire between rival armies and terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda. Untold thousands of Syrians have been bombed and gassed by their own government. Millions have fled their country. Syrian parents, home owners and business people are now homeless and unable to feed their children.

If we turn our back on those in need, the terrorists win and God’s people lose.