BALTIMORE (CNS) — The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said he was disturbed by calls from federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.
“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee. “They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”
In a statement issued Nov. 17 during the bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore, Bishop Elizondo offered condolences to the French people, especially families of the victims of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris in which at least 129 people were killed and hundreds were injured. He said he supported “all who are working to ensure such attacks do not occur again — both in France and around the world.”
But addressing calls from some governors and federal officials — including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin — to pause or halt refugee resettlement until the U.S. can ensure the safety of its citizens, Bishop Elizondo said refugees “must pass security checks and multiple interviews before entering the United States — more than any arrival to the United States. It can take up to two years for a refugee to pass through the whole vetting process. We can look at strengthening the already stringent screening program, but we should continue to welcome those in desperate need.”
He urged public officials to work together to end the conflict in Syria so the country’s nearly 4 million refugees can return home.
“Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive. As a great nation, the United States must show leadership during this crisis and bring nations together to protect those in danger and bring an end to the conflicts in the Middle East,” he said.
In a separate statement, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said although refugees’ backgrounds must be checked carefully, “it would be wrong for our nation and our state to refuse to accept refugees simply because they are Syrian or Muslim.”
“Too often in the past, however, our nation has erroneously targeted individuals as dangerous simply because of their nationality or religion,” the bishop said. “In these turbulent times, it is important that prudence not be replaced by hysteria.”
The U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, Catholic Relief Services, emphasized how carefully refugees are vetted in a five-point post called “5 Reasons Not to Punish Syrian Refugees for the Paris Attacks.”
“The refugees are not ISIS,” it said, referring to them as allies in the fight against Islamic State.
The column, by Michael Hill, CRS senior writer, noted: “Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, it’s estimated that more than 250,000 people have died. Countless homes and places of work have been destroyed. Refugees arriving in Europe have recounted in horrific detail the atrocities they witnessed within their homeland. As one mother told us, ‘You wouldn’t put a child on this boat unless it’s safer than your home. Imagine this desperation. We have nothing to lose.’
“These people should not be blamed for the actions of an extremist fringe group like ISIS. If anything, the Paris attacks should increase our sympathy for their plight,” the column said.
“While we recognize legitimate security concerns, our leaders and politicians must understand that refusing to welcome the stranger and failing to work together toward a solution to this refugee crisis only aids our enemies,” Hill wrote. “We understand the fear many American people, including members of our Catholic population, have that the senseless violence perpetrated in Paris, Beirut, and so many other places will find its way here. But as followers of Christ, we cannot allow our attitudes and our actions to be overtaken by this fear.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103