A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Giving thanks for refugees

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Nov. 26, 27 or 28

People probably prayed over their Thanksgiving meal this week, and whether saying Grace or being grateful for blessings, the act also may have helped some realize that challenges can be chances – to do good.

A world hurting from terrorism is a challenge, as is a faith-filled response to terror and its victims. What an opportunity to show faith, hope and love.

“Thy will be done,” says the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

As Jesus also said (in Matthew), “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”

As far as church, I’m a listener, not a preacher. But as dozens of governors declare they’d accept no Syrian refugees after native-European terrorists (one of whom had a fake Syrian passport) killed 130 people in Paris, it’s comforting to read Scripture’s mandate to love even as we face hate from all sides.

Besides governors ignoring the conservative U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that only the federal government has authority over refugees and immigration, politicians want to block Syrian refugees and target Muslims. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump suggested closing mosques and starting a registry of all Muslims to round up and deport them, and the GOP’s Number-2, Ben Carson, called Syrian refugees “rabid dogs.”

Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz said they’d only help Christian refugees, and House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a break in the Syrian refugee program.

CNN anchors acted like Fox hosts when they told a Muslim outreach leader that all Muslims were responsible for jihadist attacks (not suggesting all Christians are responsible for acts of violence by white right-wingers, which I wrote about in January: “Do media, government excuse homegrown terrorists?”)

Rhode Island lawmaker Elaine Morgan proposed internment camps (which President Ronald Reagan in 1988 blamed on “war hysteria” when it was used against Japanese-Americans).

All this seems less about preventing or predicting terror than quenching a short-term desire or demand for revenge – or reacting in fear to non-combatant widows and orphans seeking escape from strife bloodier than Paris or 9/11. Millions have been displaced by Syria’s conflict; half are kids and a fourth are elderly. Those seeking asylum here face up to two years of rigorous screening, and only half are accepted. Since 2012, 1,854 have reportedly relocated here.

Nevertheless, a Bloomberg poll found that half of Americans say we should block Syrian refugees. (That’s not as bad as the 1930s, when less than 5 percent of Americans believed the country should raise its immigrant quota or encourage refugees fleeing fascist Europe, and when the steamship St. Louis with 900 Jewish refugees was refused entry.)

But others are standing up and standing against intolerance. Catholic Pope Francis said, “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need.” The Presbyterian Church (USA) pleaded for Americans to not “hide in fear” but extend “generous hospitality” to Syrians in need. And the National Association of Evangelicals called for welcoming these strangers.

“If a child is suffering, if a child, a family, has been forced out of their home, are we really going to put them through a religious test in order to protect their lives? I hope not,” NAE president Leith Anderson said on public radio.

Some elected officials are defending compassion, from Governors Jerry Brown (Calif.), Kate Brown (Ore.), Mark Dayton (Minn.), John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Jay Inslee (Wash.) and Tom Wolf (Pa.) to Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Nov. 17, Warren said, “We are not a nation that delivers children back into the hands of ISIS murderers.”

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said, “They’re actually fleeing from the terrorists. They have a right to asylum.”

Indeed, shunning these people could ultimately, inadvertently, create terrorists, as in desperation people are further victimized and vulnerable to ISIS propaganda that Americans are enemies.

The United States instead should welcome them, present not just a viable future but a vision of humanitarian hope in action

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) urged Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to lead with strength, not fear, saying, “When I was a child, I witnessed the refugee crisis borne out of people fleeing the Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao in Southeast Asia. I am proud the U.S. took in refugees during those years, and ever motivated by the knowledge that we could have done more.”

We can do more now, and this Thanksgiving week, maybe we should give thanks for the opportunity to be Good Samaritans.

[PICTURED: Cartoon by Jack Ohman/Sacramento Bee.]

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