The Church of the Brethren, through action of general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger and the Office of Public Witness, has signed on to a letter to the US Senate in support of Syrian refugees. The letter also expresses opposition to a piece of legislation being sent to the Senate by the House of Representatives, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies” (SAFE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 4038).
The Church of the Brethren has a longstanding position of welcome and aid for refugees, expressed in Annual Conference statements such as the 1982 “Statement Addressing the Concern of Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States” (online at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1982refugees.html ) and most recently the 2015 “Resolution on Christian Minority Communities” (online at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2015resolutiononchristianminoritycommunities.html ).
The letter, organized by the Refugee Council USA and dated today, Jan. 15, has been signed by 199 national organizations and 295 local organizations across the United States. A number of longstanding partners of the Church of the Brethren are on the list including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Church World Service, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mennonite Central Committee US, National Council of Churches, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the United Church of Christ, among others.
The letter opposes legislation that would stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the US. “The world is witnessing the largest refugee crisis since World War II,” the letter said, in part. “More than 4 million Syrians have fled from their home country fleeing conflict and violence, and 6.5 million are displaced internally.... Syrian refugees are fleeing exactly the kind of terror that unfolded on the streets of Paris. They have suffered violence just like this for almost five years. Most have lost loved ones to persecution and violence, in addition to having had their country, their community, and everything they own brutally taken from them.”
The letter emphasized the numerous, rigorous screenings that refugees undergo before entering the country as evidence that there is no need for Congress to impose additional restrictions or security measures. “Refugees are the most thoroughly vetted group of people who come to the United States,” the letter said. “Security screenings are rigorous and involve the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and multiple intelligence agencies. Department of Homeland Security officials interview each refugee to determine whether they meet the refugee definition and whether they are admissible to the United States.”
The letter also emphasized the traditional American value of hospitality for those in need: “Refugees have enriched communities across our country and have been part of the American fabric for generations. Historically our nation has responded to every major war or conflict and has resettled refugees from Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East. Closing the door to refugees would be disastrous for not only the refugees themselves, but their family members in the United States who are waiting for them to arrive, and our reputation in the world.”
A related action alert from the Refugee Council USA calls on supporters to contact their senators before a schedule Senate vote on the bill on Jan. 20.
Find the full text of the letter and list of groups that have signed it at www.rcusa.org/uploads/Sign-on%20Letter%20Protecting%20Syrian%20Refugees%20Opposing%20SAFE%20Act%20-%201.15.16%20%281%29.pdf . Find the action alert at www.rcusa.org/uploads/Senate%20Alert%20NO%20on%20HR%204038%201.13.16.pdf .