Faith, Political Leaders Call for Compassion toward Refugees

Communications Associate

November 20, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. —In the midst of an emotional policy debate around refugees following the terrorist attacks last week, local and national leaders are acknowledging fears but also calling for compassion toward refugees fleeing terror.

“I’m driven more by — as an evangelical Christian — that the Bible calls us to care for those that are in need,” Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said in an interview Thursday. “Evangelicals have long been involved in resettling refugees. But the other side of it is, evangelical Christians are refugees around the world … We don’t want to be sorted out and persecuted. So we shouldn’t be doing it for other people.”

Anderson added that the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, “has us all sobered and frightened … But we need to take a longer view. A Biblical view says, ‘What about these people?’ If somebody is bleeding and comes to an emergency room or they’re hungry and they come to a food shelf, we’re not going to really ask their religion. We’re going to help them stop bleeding and we’re going to feed them. And that’s what we need to do.”

“While this kind of complicated geopolitical situation requires prudence, it also requires virtue,” Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, writes in the Washington Post. “We should debate what it would take to ensure adequate vetting of refugees, but we should not allow ourselves to engage in the kind of rhetoric we’ve heard in recent days.

Moore also told Buzzfeed News, “I don’t think we ought to have a religious test for our refugee policy. We really don’t want to penalize innocent women and children who are fleeing from murderous barbarians simply because they’re not Christians.”

Meanwhile, in a New York Times op-ed today headlined “Why My State Won’t Close Its Doors to Syrian Refugees,” Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington addresses the moral question at the center of the refugee debate. “The American character is being tested,” he writes. “Will we hew to our long tradition of being a beacon of hope for those chased from their homelands?”

“We can be afraid, but we can also be compassionate,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “Showing compassion to those who are afraid of the place and people they flee is surprisingly similar to showing compassion to those who are afraid of the place and people they don’t know.

“It is okay to be afraid, and it is okay to be compassionate. The challenge is to be both.”