Refugee Resettlement and Ethical Considerations
The Question of Syrian Refugees in Our Communities – Part 3
In Part 3 we continue examining highlights of the issues involved with refugee resettlement, including some of the moral and ethical considerations often raised. Finally, we consider a more desirable means to aid displaced refugees that respects the needs of both the host and refugee cultures.
7. Kindness at whose expense: When we desire to extend compassionate kindness to one person, we have to ask ourselves at whose expense this kindness is being offered. My giving others food and clothing is not true kindness if it leaves my children hungry and naked. Where is the net gain? Likewise, taking in refugees does not represent a net kindness if in turn it puts those in our own communities at risk—from terrorist attack or a more personal assault.
If human rights issues motivate our desire to resettle Middle Eastern refugees here, we would do well to consider the idea in context: History demonstrates consistently that Islamic culture has no concept of women’s value and women’s rights. They believe in executing homosexuals. They violently oppose any religion but their own. These facts would have calamitous consequences in our communities, just as they are having all over Europe.
When it comes to criticism of egregious human rights abuses inherent in Sharia-based societies, defenders of social justice who view themselves as champions of human rights are strangely silent.
8. “WWJD”—What Would Jesus Do? We are told that Jesus would demand we extend love to refugees by welcoming them to our communities—that it’s the Christian thing to do. This claim reflects a lack of understanding of the issues discussed above and in Parts 1 and 2.
The claim also conflates the benevolence individuals are called to live out on a personal level with the responsibilities of civil government. They are two different things. The chief responsibility of government is to protect and defend its own citizens from threats, domestic or foreign, not “show love” to citizens of other nations.
Radio host Brian Fischer responded to the Pope’s claim that building a wall along our southern border is not Christian: “Building a wall is the most Christian and compassionate thing a government can do for its own citizens. It protects them and their families from drug dealers, gangs, human traffickers, sex traffickers, rapists, and jihadis, as well as from those who come to America to take rather than contribute. The Pope understands this. That’s why he maintains a wall around his own sovereign state. Perhaps he can be persuaded to let us do the same.”
The Biblical book of Nehemiah describes God’s leading and blessing of those building a wall of defense. Biblically, government is responsible to protect and defend its people. This is security, not isolation—there are doors in the walls which permit coming and going. But they can be monitored. They are defensible, if necessary.
Jesus modeled the epitome of personal, selfless love. Yet He never called us to show love to someone at the expense of another, or by putting others at risk. Whereas one might sacrifice oneself for another, we have no right over others to make them the sacrifice.
Jesus did, however, teach us the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That doesn’t mean I give my friend a certain gift simply because I myself would like that gift. It means I will carefully consider my friend’s desires and suit the gift accordingly, as I hope he or she would do for me. Similarly, whereas we would likely be eager to move out of the turmoil of the Middle East and come to America—with all the comforts of familiarity which it represents to us—we can’t assume this would be the first choice for refugees, for whom everything about life in America is unfamiliar and challenging.
Interviews with evacuees reveal their grief over leaving their homeland. In our desire to help, it is time to seriously explore alternatives to bringing refugees here. Alternatives which will permit them to safely return to their own region and rebuild their accustomed lives as closely as possible—which surely is the wish of most who have been violently uprooted and displaced.
Who does not desire the comfort of the familiar—their own home and neighbors, their accustomed culture and language? It makes much more sense for refugees to be surrounded by those who share their religious system, their language, their worldview, and their culture, than for the displaced people to end up in the unfamiliar West where cultural conflict is guaranteed, to the distress of all.
How much better if funds proposed to relocate and provide for refugees here were instead used to rebuild what has been destroyed in their own beloved mother country, or at least in their more familiar region of the world? We should assist Lebanon and Jordan, who have taken in millions of Syrian refugees. European countries with untenable refugee statuses within their borders could join us in this effort.
Additionally, the world community must bring increasing pressure on wealthy Arab states along the Persian Gulf to take responsibility for their suffering brothers and sisters. At present, those wealthy Arab states are doing virtually nothing to help refugees.
Amnesty International reported that the “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “Guess how many of these Syrian refugees Saudi Arabia & other Gulf states offered to take? 0”
Pointedly, a Facebook group of Syrians in Denmark recently demanded, “How did we flee from the region of our Muslim brethren, which should take more responsibility for us than a country they describe as infidels?”
Americans are good people with big hearts. We are first on the scene to help in emergencies anywhere around the globe. Yes, we will gladly help refugees! But we cannot in good conscience endorse proposals that put our own homeland and communities at risk and violate our own human rights values.
Don’t fall victim to the either-or logical fallacy: Our choices are not to either resettle refugees here or else do nothing at all to help them. There are more and better options available. It’s time to investigate other compassionate solutions to this very real problem of human suffering.
And one final point: The old advice to “follow the money” serves us well when considering this issue. There is now an entire, acknowledged refugee industry built around refugee resettlement, with everyone seeking their piece of this lucrative pie. Could this be why many voices are insisting refugees be brought here, regardless of what is best for those involved? That’s a story for another article.