The Syrian Tragedy

Syrian refugees and local residents pray before a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, outside the Syrian embassy in Amman April 13, 2012.

Since March 15, 2011, Syria has been embroiled in a brutal civil war. Security forces opened fire on protesters of President Assad’s regime who were demonstrating for democracy. The violence begat more demonstrations, and the demonstrations begat more violence, in a vicious circle of desperation and revenge.

Sectarianism among the Muslim population has also taken hold, making this more than just a struggle for democracy. The war is more at this point a war of opposing ideology – Sunni Muslim against Shiite Muslim, pro-Assad against anti-Assad, and jihadist groups against those who want peace. The country is in turmoil. All of the warring parties have been found by the UN guilty of war crimes – there is no “good guy” for the peaceful civilians of Syria.

No faction is above rape, torture, kidnapping, murder, and besieging towns for their own gain.

Over 6 million Syrians (more than 25% of the country’s 22.85 million population) are displaced from their homes, and 4.6 million are refugees. Half of these are children. This humanitarian crisis presents the United States with a problem: in an area known for radical Islam and general unfriendliness to the Western world and specific unfriendliness to the United States, how do we help without compromising our security?

The United States government has allowed for the ingress of 10,000 Syrian refugees in the fiscal year of 2016, 67% of which so far are women, and children under the age of 12. However, many Americans demand that the United States allow more refugees into the country, in light of the direness of the situation. Conservatives typically do not want many, if any, refugees, as concerns for national security and the economy are high priorities. Liberals usually fall on the other side of the divide, and want to allow more refugees, as humanitarian concerns are high priorities. So where does this leave us?

By law, only a little more than 85,000 refugees can be admitted this year in total – and this isn’t an arbitrary amount. The President and Congress confer to decide how many new members the United States can safely support every year. This number may not sound like a lot, but consider this: the United States is historically the world’s top resettlement country for refugees. It is also by far the top destination for immigrants in general, with 45 million living in the country as of 2013. This doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels and feel secure in the notion that we’re the good guys – but it should take a little weight out of the arguments that the United States is xenophobic and doesn’t want to accept foreigners in general, which are clearly not true.

We can continue to argue whether more refugees should be admitted or not, but it’s rather a moot point as there are laws in place regulating admittance, and it would be extremely hard to get Congress to agree on whether or how to change the limit, especially because Republicans are the current majority. Our focus should be on how to help the refugees that DO get to come to America, and what we should be doing for them.

I make the assertion that as people determined to show love for others, it is our responsibility to look for ways to help Syrian refugees. As Jesus told us, “if you have done it to the least of these, my brothers, you have done it to me.” Financially donating to a reputable organization such as World Vision is always helpful, but there are even more ways to get involved. Local churches often have refugee outreaches you can get involved with, giving your time to help newly arrived Syrians get settled in their new community and adjust to American life. Other organizations which provide these services for you to donate your time to include Access California Services, and World Relief. If you’re the adventurous type, you could even consider going with Relief and Reconciliation to Lebanon to work with the refugees there. With so many different ways to help out and with as many blessings as we have, it seems a shame not to give anything of ourselves to others who have so little.


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