Catholic Answers over at Catholic Exchange posts about a fundamental question over the Syrian Refugee Crisis:
There is a lot of debate right now about how to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Iin September, when photos surfaced of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned off the coast of Turkey, there was an outpouring of support. Pope Francis even asked every parish, religious community, monastery, and sanctuary in Europe to take in one refugee family.
But the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, and the possibility that the terrorists operated under the guise of being Syrian refugees, have moved some Christians to say we should not allow Syrian refugees to enter the United States.
Are they right? Wrong? Right and wrong?
No easy answer just yet
The Catechism says we must promote the common good, which includes “alleviating the miseries of refugees dispersed throughout the world, and assisting migrants and their families” (CCC 1911). I think the United States could at least alleviate the suffering of a few hundred orphaned toddlers—children younger than age four comprise 17.3 percent of Syrian refugees.
On the other hand, the Catechism also says, “[T]he common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members” (CCC 1909).
Would admitting Syrian refugees jeopardize U.S. security? At this point, I do not believe there is a definitive answer. Believe me, I wish I had one, but I don’t want to give a simple answer based on “gut feeling.” The stakes are simply too high. As of right now I am leaning toward one side of the issue, but I won’t write about it until I can thoroughly explain and defend my position.
I may not know what our country should do when it comes to these refugees, but at least I know what I should do. If you like the steps I’ve taken myself, feel free to try it for yourself and to share it with others.
1. Don’t rely on Facebook’s French flag filter
This filter was designed to help people show solidarity with France after last week’s terrorist attacks. While I have no doubt people have used it with good intentions, and some French people seem to appreciate it, this gesture borders on slacktivism. The term refers to actions a person takes ostensibly to help a cause when in reality those actions only help the person feel better about himself. Slacktivism doesn’t cause direct harm, but it can short-circuit one’s desire to do anything else for a cause he’s already “helped.”
A recent example of slacktivism is forwarding the Kony 2012 video on Facebook, which has not led to any action against the African warlord and child exploiter Joseph Kony. However, there is evidence that the ALS ice bucket challenge did raise significant sums and accomplished some good, even though many who partook in it could be considered slacktivists because they didn’t donate money to ALS research.
So, if you French-flag-filtered your Facebook photo (try saying that three times fast), it doesn’t mean you’re a slacktivist. Just don’t let it be the only thing you do in the wake of this tragedy and ongoing refugee crisis.
2. Do something
The antidote to apathy and slacktivism is empathy and activism. It’s doing something. There are a lot of ways you can help people who are suffering right now. For example, you can donate to Save the Children, UNICEF, or Catholic Relief Services. I’m not ashamed to ask you to give money rather than donate old household goods, because, as the website charitywatch.org says:
The best way to help is by sending a check. Cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed types of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance.
You just have to do it. Right now. Trust me, it will make you happier than almost anything else on which you could have spent that disposable income. Besides, as the letter of James says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:15-17).
We don’t have to choose between performing corporal works of mercy and praying for those in need. We can do both. We can take part in the good works “God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10) and also pray “for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Here is a good prayer from the USCCByou can use and share with others:
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.
O God of hope and Father of mercy,
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.