Syrian Crisis: Our Response Today Measures Our Strength Tomorrow

Posted on June 3, 2016 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Six Steps Toward a Solution

By C. Mario Russell

Four million Syrian mothers, fathers, and children fled their country in the past five years as a result of the civil war in Syria and the terrifying rise of ISIS. Most escaped to surrounding countries, especially Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and many others moved to Europe with hope of finding a place of peace and safety.  

How we respond to this crisis today is a measure of our strength as a nation tomorrow.

Consider that since 2011, just 1,541 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States. That’s barely over 300 per year or less than 1% of the 70,000 refugees the United States accepts annually.

Why so few? Security and political issues are concerns at the forefront.  Fortunately, they have been addressed and enforced with an 18-month-long refugee screening process—the strongest ever put in place.

Our refusal to act boldly and with conviction about Syria puts us at risk of no longer hearing or seeing or being moved bythe pain and suffering of children and families.  It puts us at risk of becoming a people that is indifferent and, therefore, less strong.

We in the United States have long understood that protecting families and children who are victims of violence, war, and persecution is both a responsibility and a benefit that empowers us. In the last 50 years, for example, we responded to the Vietnamese refugee crisis in the 1970s. We found solutions to the migration of Cuban, Central American and Haitian refugees in the 1980s and 1990s. Most recently, we met the unique needs of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who flee social and political violence.

Pope Francis’s visit to the island of Lesbos drew the world’s attention to the plight of 53,000 refugees stranded in Greece. He sent a message of strength by relocating 12 of them—three Syrian families—to the Vatican. These refugees were randomly selected and are among the very few lucky ones. But it’s a start.

For the tens of thousands that remain in Greece their life in limbo continues, as it does for millions of others. And, while the European Union had agreed to relocate 6,000 refugees per month, only 46 have been given safe passage into Europe in the past month and a half. Why so few? Again, there are complex political and social reasons.

For this reason, leadership and vision are necessary, and the United States has the strength and skill to give this example. The task is clear, even if it is difficult:

  1. End the conflict in Syria
  2. Build  peace that allows Syrian refugees including ethnic and religious minorities to return home and rebuild
  3. Provide humanitarian assistance to refugees who have fled to neighboring countries
  4. Provide development aid to refugee host countries so they are able to care for refugees
  5. Provide 100,000 annual resettlement slots for refugees fleeing the Syria conflict
  6. Designate an additional 100,000 refugees to be resettled in the U.S. from other countries

These remedies need neither be permanent nor fixed. They need only respond to the crisis today.

We know that how we respond today is a measure of who we are tomorrow.

Contact Catholic Charities if you or someone you know needs immigration services.

Read the full editorial in Spanish in El Diario.

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