U.S. Faith Leaders Call for Compassion Towards Syrians

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Trump’s executive order banning the entry to the U.S. of citizens from several countries, the majority of which being Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, and in light of the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria, a coalition of diverse faith leaders united under the Syria Faith Initiative call for the upholding of our American values of accepting and giving compassion towards refugees, particularly Syrians who have been the victims of horrific atrocities over the past 8 years. While SCOTUS affirmed President Trump’s executive authority on immigration and national security matters, in light of the Trump Administration’s political rhetoric calling for a “Muslim ban,” we believe this travel ban is a thinly-veiled attempt to stoke hatred and division. Doing so comes at the worst time for the Syrian people.

The SCOTUS decision on the travel ban comes in the same week that more than 270,000 Syrians have been displaced in southwest Syria, according to the United Nations, as a result of the Government of Syria and Russia’s military offensive in Daraa Province.

“Our faith calls us to give refuge and assistance to the suffering ‘stranger.’ Syrian refugees, whether Muslim or Christian, are fully deserving of our compassion. My faith experience teaches me to see the human being before I see their label. They were forced to leave their homes due to unprecedented atrocities,” said Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston, Pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church in Chicago.

Half of the Syrian population has been forcibly displaced, and half a million have been killed in the worst humanitarian crisis the world has witnessed since the Second World War.

“The court decision will practically close the door in the faces of Syrian refugees. The U.S. has resettled only 18,000 Syria refugees out of 5.6 million,” said Rabbi Craig Marantz of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and senior rabbi of the Emanuel Congregation. There are 64 million displaced persons in the world, and one out of 4 refugees worldwide is from Syria. “The world is dealing with this refugee crisis, and the U.S. has decided to remain on the sidelines. This is a violation of who we are as Americans, leaders of the free world and a sanctuary for the dispossessed, the tired, and the poor,” said Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

“We call on our policymakers and the U.S. Congress to reflect our faith values and the foundations upon which our nation was created. Our faith communities care about the Syrian and Muslim refugees,” said Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Executive Vice President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis.

“Our beloved Statue of Liberty must be weeping as we reject the children of God who have fled violence, death, and devastation in their country. They are now lost without a home or country in a miserable, poverty-stricken wilderness. They have lost hope that they ever will find home again, and they know the world has forgotten them,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President of MedGlobal and a Syrian American doctor who has led several medical missions to Syria and neighboring countries.

“In the face of the epic suffering of the Syrian people and other oppressed populations around the world, President Trump’s travel ban is an affront to the God who demands solidarity with the downtrodden, and who invites us to see difference as the foremost sign of the beauty and dignity of all creation,” said Dr. Scott Alexander, Professor of Islamic Studies and Director of the Catholic-Muslim Studies Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

“The U.S. must step up to the noble task of supporting these oppressed refugees who are desperately seeking protection and a new life; this is a call to our core values as a caring society and nation” said Kareem Irfan, Past Chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. “While relying on security safeguards driven by the most vigorous of vetting criteria which are already in place, we ask— as people of faith and as concerned citizens— that the U.S. act promptly to cut out the backlog of refugee cases and increase the ceiling on refugee admissions, especially for the war-torn Syrians fleeing the disastrous humanitarian crisis.”

“Refusing hospitality to those who suffer is antithetical to Christian faith. Refusing entry to the United States based on religious identity is antithetical to traditional American values and flies in the face of our long history as a beacon for people fleeing persecution. There have been historical moments when America has failed to live up to these values, and we look back upon them with shame. This moment in history will be no different. As a Christian and as an American, I call on the President and Congress to change course, to work to end rather than exacerbate the suffering of the Syrian people.” said Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman, Episcopal priest and co-founder of the Syrian Faith Initiative.

The Syria Faith Initiative is a coalition of multi-faith leaders concerned about the plight of the Syrian people and refugees, advocating for a peaceful end to the Syrian crisis and compassionate treatment of the refugees.