The Refugee Dilemma

As the controversy over Syrian refugees rages on, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this situation, and for the longest time I got sucked into the spirit of fear over this issue. Then a number of things struck me.
Firstly, some of my grandparents were refugees and some were immigrants. The refugees relied on the immigrants for help in adjusting to Canadian life. They didn’t speak a word of English when they arrived, and one even had health problems that prevented him from joining his family for a period of time. He was held in a “detention” area until he was deemed well enough to travel. Many of my grandparents’ peers were also refugees. Running to escape war and terror in Ukraine. They arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs and hands willing to work. Embarrassed by their situation (since they once had property and money), they did everything possible to repay their sponsors for their debts of transportation across the Atlantic. They worked hard, they built businesses and churches and taught their children and grandchildren the importance of hard work and getting along with others. They were part of the new multi-cultural ethnic Canadians.
So here I am, almost 100 years later born and raised into Canadian society. Where would I be today if they hadn’t decided to make Canada their home? Would I even exist? Would they have been murdered like so many of their families and peers? I exist because they took the chance to cross the Atlantic and build a new home in a foreign country. I am grateful for that.

Regarding this new influx of refugees, one of the fears that exist is “who will pay to support these refugees while they go through the transitional period?” “Will they try to work, or will they depend on the public welfare system for support indefinitely?” “Our health care system can’t even handle our population, how will they handle a massive influx so quickly?” I think what we forget is that Canada brings in tens of thousands of refugees every year. We don’t hear about it so much because they come from many places around the world. Somehow we always find space for them, and most of them eventually adjust to Canadian society, finding jobs and creating businesses. If the first generation has difficulty adapting, successive generations usually adapt quite well. The difference this year is that the refugees are coming from one area of the world and are a particular migrant type, predominately associated with a particular religious group that is linked to the issue that is causing the problems in the first place.
People are afraid that terrorism activities will suddenly develop here in our country. The unfortunate reality is that there are already terror cells in our country that are being monitored by proper authorities. No, we don’t want those cells to increase and we would like to see them all disrupted and disappear. However, when you look at the individuals who have participated in the terror attacks around the world, they are often home grown with no previous signs of desiring to cause such destruction. Yes, its possible (as in the Paris attacks) that some individuals will slip through the screening process and cause future problems. Do we stop an influx of genuine refugees from obtaining safety and security, food and shelter because there might be a few bad apples in the bunch?

At some point we have to trust the vetting process. Ordinary citizens are not in control of the vetting process. The UN and other agencies are put in place to do that job. Those persons are trained and have been doing this job for many years. Think of it this way: do you go to your untrained next door neighbor for medical advice when you are sick, or do you go to your doctor? Every occupation has its experts, and we need to trust the process and rely on those experts to do what they do best.
Then there is the religion issue. Canada & the USA have been (since their founding) primarily two christian nations built on christian principles. Will an influx of people from other religions change the religious makeup of our culture? Yes, probably. However, here is another possibility to chew on. What if every church took one family and introduced them to our christian value system where we (as at least we are supposed to) teach and PRACTICE love in the real world. Can we introduce love and show how it can replace fear? Would that change the world we live in?
As christians, we are supposed to be working to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. How can we do that without disrupting culture? Love dispels hate, love squashes fear, love embraces change. If we can’t show love, what are we showing? Jesus disrupted the culture of his day, he embraced the downtrodden, the homeless, the lepers, and the worst sinners of his society (even tax collectors!). He changed their world and in the process changed the culture of the entire world forever. He taught love to everyone he met. In the process he spoke truth and called a spade a spade. He was not politically correct in his generation and the authorities hated him for that and eventually killed him for that. But he showed us something else very important: Light dispels darkness. Darkness does not invade light unless we allow it to do so.
These new immigrants will disrupt our current culture and our current society. They may bring with them fear, hate, and other disparaging problems. Its possible. But its also possible that they might not. How we react to them will determine whether or not we will disrupt a culture of fear and hate and replace it with a culture of love and honor, or whether we will allow the fear and hate to continue. If we can be a light in a dark world, the darkness will flee. If we can bring hope we will bring faith. If we can bring faith, we will bring love. In the end love conquers all.

[ Love Your Enemies ] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i]only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so?48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)

Today’s prayer: Dear Father God, please help us to remember why you came to earth. You came to show us love, show us hope and show us who you are. You modelled how we are to live and how we are to die. You showed us your true heart through the life and death of your only son, Jesus the Messiah, the Christ. Remind us of the great love that he shared with us. He died for us so that we could live. Our sins forgiven forever so that we can live feeling loved and forgiven, without guilt and shame. And we can look forward to an eternity in your presence where the fullness of your love will envelope us for all eternity.  Help us to be love to those around us, to build communities of love and faith and forgiveness. Help us to be a light in a very dark world. Help us to bring your kingdom to earth. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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