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Catholic Bishops: Resist temptation to scapegoat Syrian refugees

Several catholic bishops have called on Christians to resist the urge scapegoat all Syrian refugees, since they themselves are fleeing for their lives.

“I am disturbed … by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the Catholic bishops’ committee on migration, said on Tuesday during the United States bishops’ general assembly.

“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives,” he said.

“We cannot and should not blame (refugees) for the actions of a terrorist organization,” he continued.

Bishop Elizondo expressed complete disapproval over the Paris attacks, saying, “I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the November 13 attacks in Paris, France and to the French people. I add my voice to all those condemning these attacks and my support to all who are working to ensure such attacks do not occur again – both in France and around the world.”

Shutting out those seeking refuge from violence in their homeland is not the answer, Bishop Elizondo said. Instead, the U.S. should consider “strengthening the already stringent program,” while at the same time continuing to “welcome those in desperate need.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville said, “We at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities, are always open to helping families who come into the United States in need of help,” according to Catholic News Service.

“We have that tradition of doing it and we’re going to contribute.” He continued.

“Our efforts are going to be to reach out to people and to serve them,” the archbishop said.

“My hope would be that the church would continue to be able, within the law, to help those families.”

US president Obama has separately said that the U.S. will continue welcoming  Syrian refugees despite the terror attacks in Paris on Friday, and slammed suggestions that only Christian newcomers should be welcomed.

Coordinated terrorist attacks consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage-taking linked to militants of the Islamic State killed 129 people in Paris Nov. 13, and wounded at least 350 others. Officials have identified one of the suspected terrorists as a Syrian national who they believe posed as a refugee to gain entry into France. Several other suspected attackers, however, are French nationals.

Similarly, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence issued a statement Nov. 16 saying that “it would be wrong for our nation and our state to refuse to accept refugees simply because they are Syrian or Muslim. Obviously the background of all those crossing our borders should be carefully reviewed for reasons of security.”

Bishop Tobin added that “as is our well-established practice, the Diocese of Providence stands ready to assist in a careful and thoughtful process of refugee resettlement.”

The Diocese of Cheyenne has responded to Governor Matt Mead’s call to stop Syrian refugee resettlement saying it is “appreciative of Governor Mead’s responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all of Wyoming’s citizens.”

The statement of Deacon Mike Leman, the diocese’s legislative liaison, added that “we hope the governor has in mind a means in which the vetting process can be measured in an expedient manner, so that a resettlement option for those fleeing from war can once again be considered.”

“It is important to remember that these are our fellow human beings who are fleeing the same kind of terror that occurred last week in Paris. By denying them sanctuary, we play into the hands of terrorists. We believe that this is not an either or issue. Measured steps can and should be taken to ensure safety while also allowing that Wyoming continues to be a welcoming place.”

Since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, more than 4.1 million Syrians have fled their homeland. Most are in Turkey and Lebanon, but many are seeking asylum in Europe and the United States.



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