Fear Refugees? Or Fear God?


715_muslimwoman by Michelle Kanaar_MUJW

Photo by Michelle Kanaar / MUJW

A day or two after 9/11, I asked a Muslim colleague if his (covered) wife needed someone to do her errands. During that tense time, going out in public while covered was risky. I wanted to make sure she could get household essentials without fear.

That moment came back to mind as friends have debated whether the United States should welcome refugees from Syria. The only reason anyone has mentioned for excluding Syrian refugees is fear they may become terrorists. The fear is irrational — in the US, twice as many people have been killed since 9/11 by white supremacists as by people we call “terrorists.” But fear is often irrational. We know that the Bible says God has not given us a spirit of fear. Still, it is easy to justify anxiety as “counting the cost” or “being wise as a serpent.”

I ran into my former colleague several years later, after I had started working for The Salvation Army. This Arab Muslim told me, “That is the kind of job you should have, working for a church, because you are a real Christian.”

I can’t think of anything that would have prompted him to say this except that I offered help and protection at a time when his wife might have been at risk. And they didn’t even need the help, as it turned out — all I gave was the offer.

We can’t afford to try to protect ourselves better than God does. God has not given us a spirit of fear. While courageous Christians around the world face the ultimate risk daily, let’s dare to take this tiny risk now.

Since this post was written, many in Congress have joined the governors of many states in choosing fear. Syrian Christians, yes. Syrian Muslims, no. Religious freedom, no. “In God we trust,” no.

More than 2 in 3 American college students objected to allowing Jewish immigrants to enter the U.S. in the years leading up to what we now call the Holocaust. May we not look back on this time as one of similar spiritual blindness.

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About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at christianpurposeblog.wordpress.com, churchandmentalillness.wordpress.com and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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