“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
King James Version (KJV)
It has been almost one week since the terrorist attacks in Paris, although, somehow, it seems much longer than that. In these scant few days, we have witnessed both huge outpourings of generosity and kindness, alongside a lack of compassion for one’s fellow man that I find hard to articulate. One thing is clear; great tragedies, like mirrors, show us who we really are.
The huge influx of migrants from the war zones of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan into Europe has been big news for many months. While the US media has paid lip service to the crisis, it seemed to be dismissed as something that the Europeans had to deal with: “Serve them right for having open borders and being so close to Syria!” Even the bombings, shootings and executions that ISIS has perpetrated on Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Middle East was disregarded as, “in other news”. It took an attack on an important Western city to wake us up and smell the coffee.
I read an interesting article in the UK paper, the Guardian, written by a former captive of ISIS – I urge you to read it here: Nicolas Henin. As a Frenchman, he has every right to be horrified by the attacks in Paris, but as an ex-captive, he was unsurprised. He explains that the twisted ideology of ISIS does not resonate with any religious group, rather it is more like an apocalyptic death cult. They have no sympathy for anyone who is not “of them” – to ISIS, the murder of innocent men, women and children (of whatever religion), is of no consequence. Central to their belief system is that “communities cannot live together with Muslims” and they use every media avenue to find evidence to support this. When European nations opened their doors to refugees who had been terrorized out of their homes, ISIS was infuriated – that kind of generosity and openness will not help them recruit disaffected young men and women to their deadly cause.
All of which brings me to the announcements from many (predominantly Republican) state governors that they will not allow any Syrian refugees to settle within their borders. Putting aside the fact that it is impossible for them to do this under the Federal Refugee Act of 1980, this is fear-mongering at its worst – and fuel for ISIS recruiters. The House GOP is already pushing legislation to make it harder for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the country, despite the fact that at least 6 out of the 8 terrorists in Paris were European and held EU passports! I think if recent US history has taught us anything, it is that our nation should be more concerned about mentally unbalanced, young white men (read: Christian?) with easy access to high-powered weaponry.
The vast majority of the refugees fleeing the clutches of ISIS are women and children. What does it say about a person who is willing to allow innocent people to die as a means of pandering to a political base? These are politicians who claim to be “Christian”, and “pro-life” – where is their Christian charity now? How is it “pro-life” to essentially condemn young children to death?
This Nicholas Kristof NY Times Op-Ed post reminds us of a previous episode when refugees were turned away from our shores due to fear and ignorance. His piece highlights how, as a nation, we cannot turn our backs on those fleeing murder and tyranny – They Are Us!
My eldest daughter is doing a project for school, tracing ancestors and patterns of immigration into the United States; if nothing else, the project shows that virtually all of us were, at some point, strangers in a strange land.
It is also worth remembering the adage that those who ignore the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.