Statement: The Syria Refugee Crisis and the Churches

The National Council of Churches echoes and endorses the call of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service for the US Government to open its borders to 100,000 Syrian refugees this coming fiscal year, in addition to increasing the total U.S. resettlement commitment to 100,000 refugees from other parts of the world. Along with our ecumenical colleagues in the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, we also call upon the European Union to put in place policies which enable safe and legal pathways into Europe including issuing of humanitarian visas, lifting of visa requirements for persons fleeing from conflict zones, easier and more generous family reunification for persons in need of or granted international protection, and humanitarian admission.*  And along with all people and organizations of goodwill, we call upon the United Nations and its member states to commit its diplomatic and humanitarian agencies to bring about an end to this crisis.

From the very beginning, the Church has identified itself with refugees. Our ancestors in faith were themselves refugees when they fled the chariots of Pharaoh after escaping from slavery. Jesus himself was a refugee when his family fled to Egypt to escape the sword of Herod. Whenever early Christians were persecuted, they were made refugees. Since the first century, when people have fled violence and other calamities, and sought refuge in other places, often the welcome they received in these foreign societies was symbolized, and indeed motivated, by the open embrace of churches providing sanctuary and material assistance.  Christians and Jews alike have heeded God’s command,

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19, NRSV).”

Today, fellow Christians and their Muslim neighbors are fleeing violence in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria in numbers not seen since 16 million people were forced from their lands during the Second World War.  And worse, this current refugee crisis is growing. After years of civil strife and now terrorist extremism, Syrians are fleeing by the thousands, not only to neighboring countries, but, as sadly and dramatically playing out daily on our television screens, to Europe. The international community seems incapable of finding a solution to this crisis.

We also call upon churches in the United States, Europe and throughout the world to join in resettling refugees in their cities, towns, and villages, welcoming the stranger as our faith demands. And we call upon all people of conscience to join with churches and other organizations in compassionate responses to this crisis.

This refugee crisis was years in the making. It is now unfolding before our eyes. We cannot let it continue.

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