No one is free unless everyone is free: a Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

In the wake of 9-11 the majority of U.S. citizens were united in unwavering determination to never allow fear to define 1) our daily living, 2) our commitment to opening the nation’s doors to those displaced by national conflict, and 3) our re-commitment to preserving freedom of religion without persecution.  As a historic Baptist institution whose purpose is to train leaders who will equip the church to serve the world, our faith ancestors were willing to die for the freedom of another, to believe or not believe, without fear of retribution, coercion or persecution. The First Amendment of the Constitution reflects these beliefs, and Baptists have served Christ by faithfully reminding the global church that no one is free unless everyone is free.


In the wake of the dreadful attacks upon Paris, I am deeply concerned about a move made by numerous governors to put a pause on Syrian immigration.  A move which was precipitated by suggestions that at least one of the attackers in Paris entered Europe amid the recent influx of migrants from Syria. The move, upon first glance, seems wise and rational when one looks from a perspective of national security.  Illinois’ Governor Rauner stated, “Our nation and our state have a shared history of providing safe haven for those displaced by conflict, but the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America.  We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.”


Yes, please review Homeland Security procedures; yes, be appropriately cautious, but decisions to shut approved migrants out provides those who desire to create a culture of fear a source for deep satisfaction in what they have achieved through their acts of terror. In the last few days, students and graduates of Northern Seminary have been phoning, emailing, and talking in the halls about their congregations’ and denominations’ resettlement projects which may now be at risk.  Scripture is very clear in the invitation, promise, and mandate to be a people grounded in Christ’s love, not driven or paralyzed by fear. Please join me in prayer for our elected leaders and these churches who stand ready to take in the foreigner, the widow; the poor.  I do not pretend to know the answers, but I pray that we are light and salt in the public places in which we walk.  May God’s peace begin in us.
Ministers together in the Gospel,


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