Welcoming Refugees in Times of Fear

This message was sent out by Mennonite Central Committee, the facilitating organization for our refugee fund. I found it to be inspiring and important, which is why I want to share it with you.

The vicious use of terrifying violence in Paris, and before that in Beirut, and before that in Yemen, and before that… all of this angers me. I really cannot understand how anyone can wreak this kind of horror on their sisters and brothers in the human community. It is abhorrent.

But it is not new.

It seems new in part because it offends our sense of fair play in war; that trained people in uniforms should be killing other trained people in uniforms. And even though we know the death of “innocents” in war already has a long and tragic history, we still recoil when fresh-faced western youth are massacred in a Paris theatre. From within us comes a deep need to respond. To pay back. To show we are not cowed. To eradicate the terror-maker. To make sure no more of “them” are allowed on to our soil.

“Them” in this case applies especially to refugees from Syria and Iraq. “Them” is that group that our government has invited in by the thousands. 25 thousand to be precise. And “they,” far more than us, are the terrorized.

They have stared into the horror of vicious violence and decided that as much as they love their homelands, they are willing to resettle in a strange new land.

Welcoming “them” may be one of our most powerful acts of resisting the evil of terrorism. And if the huge spike in numbers of people offering to help sponsor Syrian refugees since the Paris attacks is any indication, many Ontarians believe this to be true.

Is there a risk? Of course.

Would we be safer by closing the door to our free and democratic society? I do not think so.

As a faith-based organization Mennonite Central Committee is deeply committed to active, non-violent peacebuilding. That is why we are highly engaged with school and community leaders in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in building religious tolerance and teaching peacebuilding skills. This alone will not end the current warring in the region. But it just may contribute to a more lasting peace in the future.

For us to model peacebuilding in Syria and then close our doors to the victims of terror there undermines the very gift we have to share. Though far from perfect, Canadian society practices an embrace of difference that is remarkable, and in the end is a strong weapon against fear and terror.

We face a long and uncertain road to peace. As I was almost finished writing this an Amish friend told me to end with these words from a great Teacher: “Repay evil with good.”

Wise and timely advice.

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