Refugee Q and A (3)
Here’s the third q and a. Two questions this time (hopefully we have covered what we need to!).
Once again I remind us of two important drivers for our Refugee Christmas series.
First and foremost, Brad and I love the text and want to encourage our congregation to live the text. This series was dreamed up long before the refugee crisis became the political football it is. Our goal was never to promote Syrian refugees coming to Holland, Michigan. Unfortunately, or should I say, by God’s providence, questions relating to this humanitarian crisis are naturally being asked. These questions go beyond the intention of the series.
Second, our goal is to encourage everyone in our congregation, and all those who connect with us through social media, the web and live online – and there are lots of folks who do – to keep an eye out for the marginalized; the outsiders who live around us. The Christmas story reminds us that the Eternal Son took on flesh and experienced not only a humble beginning but a refugee reality. In a fragmented world with so many displaced and disconnected people, the importance of keeping watch for those who live refugee-like lives is paramount. Everyone deserves to live in hope and in meaningful community with others.
Brad and I receive questions daily and in this blog we’re doing what we can to address the concerns. Our desire is to point to a Biblical way of thinking about critical topics. We aren’t social anthropologists or political commentators. We’re pastor teachers who love God, and make it a habit of seeking His Word when faced with difficult issues. We encourage you to evaluate everything we say against the Scriptures we so strongly desire to reflect.
Question: You addressed the checks in place, doesn’t what happened in California reveal these checks to be inadequate?
Answer: The events last week in California are tragic. However, the checks relating to refugee entry and the immigration procedure for K1 visa entry are different processes. It appears the visa in question is a K1 visa. I entered the Unites States on an R1 visa program. In the previous blog I shared my experience of obtaining a Green Card through the R1 program. The R1 to Green Card process is more prolonged than many other processes. While some believe the prolonged process for religious visas to be discriminatory – and to some degree it is – I had no problem with it. I personally understand that religion is often a vehicle for bad not good. Since terrorism is also an internal problem, I believe a review of the visa program to be appropriate. Nothing in Scripture would prohibit this. Some news reports I’m reading suggest that this is something the government is now looking into.
I’m not saying that the checks for refugees don’t need constant monitoring. There is always room for improvement on policy and process. My observation is merely that the process for refugee entry and fiancé entry are two very different processes. A refugee did not commit the atrocities we witnessed in California last week. An American citizen and his fiancé – living in this country on a K1 visa - did.
Question: Isn’t “Refugee” a bad title? Unless (with the title) Central is planning a stealth import of Muslims to Holland so we can hear the cries of Allah Akbar as the religion of peace shoots up Meijer for the Glory of Allah and the prophet of Ibis Muhammad.
Answer: First, refugee is not a bad title for this series. Read Matthew 2:13-18 and compare these horrific events with the definition of a refugee.
The same day we got the above question we also received an email from a young adult who works in a coffee shop in our area. She overheard non-churched people in the shop talking about how dumb the Christian response is since Jesus was also a refugee. She mentioned that her church was tackling this exact topic in our Advent series. It thrilled her to know how relevant the series is to non-churched people. It surprised them to know that a church was taking it on (God's providence takes the credit for that one!).
This begs a question, though, doesn’t it? Why is it that non-churched people know our heritage better than churched people? Are Christians more driven by the fear of terror than we are by the implications of our sacred text? Do we not realize that the origins of our Messiah are rooted in a refugee reality? What implications does the refugee reality of Christ have for the humanitarian crisis being experienced today? What does it say to those people living around us in isolation? This isn’t a bad title. It couldn’t be more relevant or true.
Second, as for the stealth import of Muslims to Holland I’d only repeat that with this series we are only seeking to encourage our congregation to respond with compassion to those refugees, aliens, strangers, foreigners and outsiders who are already here. Holland is no longer ‘whitely white’ (a term used by the local media outlets). Many in our community feel like outsiders. As Brad shared last Sunday, the dominant culture often closes rank on outsiders giving them little chance to ‘enter in.’ This was Joseph and Mary’s reality. They were social refugees for no other reason than saying yes to the will of God. If that isn’t an experience with which most Christians can identify, then maybe we need to examine our faith expression. Saying, “Yes” to God in the current climate often pushes us outside the dominant group. Our young people frequently face this kind of pressure. This title is relevant here too!
On another note, how many churches have closed ranks because the world outside is too hostile? This Christmas may God remind us of the kind of world into which our Messiah was thrust. It was anything but silent that night and certainly not peaceful.
There is one point that I do believe needs addressing since I believe the second question touches on this issue through the phrase, "a stealth import of Muslims." The bigger issue is the immigration debate. The secondary issue is this: it is not enough for a Muslim to say that radicals do not represent their faith and do little to root out such radicalism from their faith.
News outlets are carrying stories that indicate that Muslims around the California couple had strong suspicions of their radicalization. I think it is fair to ask, “Why wasn’t something significant done by those Muslims to stop this?”
News stations shouldn’t just be asking neighbors why they didn’t act on their suspicions. We need to be asking the Muslim community this too. Not every Muslim is a terrorist just like every pastor isn’t an embezzler. A number of the questions we’ve received make the mistake of assuming that every refugee is a terrorist. That isn’t true. I believe it to be incorrect to say that every Muslim is a terrorist. However, whether the Islamic community likes it or not, America has a right to see them doing more to root out radical Islam. They have a responsibility to this nation and if that means outing radical family members, so be it. No son and/or daughter is worth fourteen sons and daughters. No parent should ever have to bury their own child – and certainly never like this!
America is a cosmopolitan country with an inclusive vision where no one religion dominates. Many commentators are suggesting that this vision stands at the heart of the immigration battle – a sentiment to which the second question hints. In her current form, America is no longer a Christian country. That’s a painful reality for folks in the church. That being said, for this inclusive vision to work Muslims in America must do more to make it work. It’s not enough to say, “My faith isn’t violent” and do little or nothing when suspicions are there. America deserves more. Americans expect more.
When I received my Green Card I was told that it was a blessing to live in this country. I was told that if I acted in ways that undermined that blessing then I could lose the privilege. For me, living in America is a privilege and not a right. Anyone who enters this country has to know that. Anyone living in this country has to uphold the value of the sanctity of life. That's a Christian virtue.
The question I think needs pondering is this: if you are blessed to be allowed to live here and do too little to protect the people that live here, when should you lose the right to reside?
Of course, trying to draw these lines legally would be tough. The point is this: If moderate Islam won’t do more off it’s own back, then what pressure can be put on her from the outside to make that happen? When, if ever, and this applies to everyone not just Muslims, will it be appropriate to make protecting national security a condition of entry and nationalization?
Now, there are indications that Muslim reform groups are upping the stakes on this. I sincerely hope that what I read about this growing movement is true. It needs to be. We live in challenging days with ever-evolving threats. The internal threat of terror is great. Those threats demand vigilance from all sides – including the Islamic community.
Please don’t forget: this blog is written by a Green card holder who considers it a blessing to live here. I am committed to protect the security of everyone who calls America home. What I believe should apply to everyone who enters this nation, applies to me too.
Finally, please remember that through this series we're inviting everyone in America to learn a lesson from the Christmas story. Lots of people around us are displaced and disconnected from meaningful relationships with others because they are alienated from their heavenly Father. Jesus entered this world to help us connect with His Father and with others. This Christmas let’s make Jesus’ example our experience.