Our Easily-Changed View of Syrian Refugees


Just two months ago, the world was horrified by a photo of a lifeless 3-year-old boy whose body had washed up on the beach of Turkey.

The child was identified as Aylan Kurdi, and CNN reported that Kurdi’s brother, Galip, and their mother, Rehen, also died, according to Fin Donnelly, a member of the Canadian Parliament. They were trying to reach Greece from which they hoped to travel to Vancouver where they had family.

For a while, the story of Syrian refugees received worldwide attention, even in America, where we are generally quick to ignore stories that we can easily dismiss as “someone else’s problems.”

Kurdi, lying face down on the shore in his little red T-shirt and blue pants was one of a dozen who drowned trying to escape their country.

It was one of those images that haunted those who saw it.

For a while, there was talk about why the United States wasn’t doing more to help. For a while, there was criticism of the Obama Administration for only increasing by 10,000 the number of refugees the nation planned to help.

That photo, and the suffering it represented, were abominations and a Christian country like America couldn’t just sit back and do nothing while it continued. (That line of criticism was especially popular among the self-proclaimed Christians who are convinced that Obama is a Muslim.)

Then came November 13.

Terrorists in Paris killed 130 people and injured more than 360. ISIS (or ISIL, depending on which name you prefer) claimed responsibility for the attacks, and French President François Hollande said the attacks were an act of war that had been planned in Syria.

That’s about the time the sympathy for the Syrian refugees faded away as if no one had ever seen that grisly photo of the 3-year-old boy.

Suddenly no one wanted Syrian refugees anywhere near the United States, and those Christians who’d blamed Obama for not doing enough were now blaming him for a plan they saw as doing far too much.

Governors began issuing notices to the State Department that their states did not want Syrian refugees over fear a terrorist attack would be perpetrated by them.

People began lamenting, more loudly than ever, that it’s time to close our borders completely. It didn’t matter that they are residents of this country because their ancestors were immigrants. All that mattered was that they were here now, this is their country, and no one else needs to be let in.

From a Christian standpoint in particular, this attitude is a problem, even if you can put that photo of the little boy out of your mind.

Over at Relevant Magazine, Jesse Carey wrote an interesting piece titled, “What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees,” with 12 verses that deal with the subject. Some are certainly familiar, like Matthew 25:25-36 and the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37.

But then there was Galatians 5:14:

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’m not sure how slamming the door shut to those in need accomplishes this.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.