Xenophobia, or fear of foreigners, is gaining traction globally as people grapple with the horrors of terrorism. Some politicians suggest stopping Syrian refugees from entering our country will keep Americans safe. Others recommend barring certain religions from entering. It sure sounds good to take a “tough stand” and stop terrorism by closing borders, but we know it’s much, much more complicated than that. And are we willing to compromise our values and beliefs that made this country great? To suggest that people are no longer welcome, regardless of what our Statue of Liberty in New York harbor has to say.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It’s good to remember we are a land of immigrants, and other than our Native American brethren, descendants of people who came to America with hopes for a better life for themselves and their families. Whether our roots are Irish, Italian, Guatemalan, Honduran, Chinese, Indonesian, Polish, Hungarian, … we all can trace our country of origin to one far away from the shores of America.
There is much to be concerned with in today’s society, including religious extremism. However, we must realize the Syrian refugee crisis stems from, among other things, a brutal, relentless multi-year drought tied to climate change. And when people can’t meet their basic needs for food, water, and shelter, all hell breaks loose. Today it’s Syria. Tomorrow it may well be Small Pacific Islander nationals seeking shelter. Will we turn away those that lost their homes due to climate change, or will we welcome them? Let’s heed Pope Francis’ Encyclical which calls for action to protect God’s creation, particularly the poor, from the ravages of climate change.
The Syrian refugee crisis is a whisper of what’s to come in the decades to follow, and international agreements, protocols, and funding will be essential to adapt to climate change and mitigate the damages in the warming years to come. Let’s try to learn from our present refugee crisis so people fleeing homelands in the future will find a welcoming, supportive, and safe refuge. We can start with a successful United Nations Conference on Climate Change to be held later this month in Paris.