We should not fear Syrian refugees

I want to commend to you the cited Baltimore Sun editorial on whether or not to accept Syrian refugees into the United States. It addresses specifically the stance of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan who has requested that no refugees be sent to Maryland. The editorial makes a strong case for the need to welcome those seeking to flee violence and war. It also makes clear that these refugees are not who we are fighting. We need to fight terrorists, not Islam.

The editorial makes three important points. First, there is a careful screening process already in place. In fact, it is far easier to enter the U.S. on a tourist visa than it is to enter as a refugee. It is morally wrong to demonize the innocent who are mostly women and children.

Secondly, the point is made that the current political rhetoric is a great recruiting tool for the so-called Islamic State. Our response to the refugee crisis demonstrates that we do not live by the values we claim to honor. The Islamic State can and will exploit our fear and our failure to show compassion to those in need.

Finally, the suggestion that is being made by some that we should accept only Christian refugees is truly offensive. The idea of a religious test is rejected by the Constitution and does not square with American, Christian, or human values. People in need are people in need, and we don't need to check their religious credentials at the door.

I would add two points. First, the concern over this ragtag group of war torn refugees stands in contrast to the lack of concern over the victims of gun violence we see on a daily basis across our country. My second point is to ask why we have not heard from the Catholic bishops of the United States on this current crisis. Pope Francis said that every parish across Europe should accept a refugee family.

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Our bishops, however, just met in Baltimore, and apparently no one told them there is a new pope in town.

The bishops rubber-stamped their outdated agenda retaining the same priorities. They added only pornography as a major agenda item. They specifically relegated the priorities of Pope Francis to second-tier status. Clearly they still believe religion is all about sex.

This lack of response is unfortunate because the bishops could make a real difference on these issues of gun violence and welcoming migrants from Syria. Speaking out on gun violence and insisting on universal background checks could tilt the balance toward needed legislation. The collective voices of the U.S. bishops demanding fair treatment for refugees, and the need for all countries to share in the burden of relieving the plight of victims, could serve as a counterweight to the hateful and offensive rhetoric we are hearing from too many politicians. We are already seeing a dangerous conflict developing among the American people who are beginning to take sides. Yet the collective voice of the American bishops remains silent. I find this missed opportunity to be incredibly sad.


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