ELIE WIESEL, A FORMER REFUGEE and Nobel Peace Prize winner, once said, “Our century is marked by displacements on the scale of continents. . . . Never before have so many human beings fled from so many homes.” Sadly, this remains true today. The numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) total over thirteen million. Many are compelled to escape from religious persecution and other deplorable atrocities, situations that most of us in the United States are only vaguely aware and cannot even begin to imagine.
THIS COUNTRY’ S HISTORICAL COMMITMENT to freedom requires a responsible, generous, and compassionate policy toward refugees. Although religious and ethnic hatred around the world cannot be solved simply by good refugee policy, care for the refugees created by those problems is a natural Christian response. The May 17, 1999, report of the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad concludes, “We must upgrade domestic procedures that identify and protect refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from religious persecution. We must strengthen our overseas refugee processing mechanisms to reach those in need of rescue. We must ensure that we are doing everything possible to bolster protection for victims of religious persecution waiting in third countries.”
To IMPROVE DOMESTIC PROCEDURES that identify and protect refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from religious persecution, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) supports the intent and purpose of the Refugee Protection Act, the unfinished business of the religious persecution legislation. The Refugee Protection Act, advocated by World Relief and many other faith-based organizations, minimizes the danger of returning refugees to the hands of their tormentors and also protects them from further abuse.
To STRENGTHEN OUR OVERSEAS processing mechanisms to reach those in need of rescue, we urge the Department of State to carefully consider new populations of refugees being created by religious persecution. Congress and the Administration should come to an agreement upon fair and generous refugee admissions as a means of protecting these individuals, who should be able to enjoy the same freedoms and privileges that we take for granted.
To ENSURE THAT THE EVANGELICAL community is doing everything possible to bolster protection for victims of religious persecution who have fled to the U.S., NAE urges its member congregations to participate fully in the lives of refugees nearby through World Relief. They are our neighbors, and we are to love them. Whether through assisting a refugee to find a job, tutoring adults and children in English, or just by being a friend, involvement in welcoming a stranger is part of our Biblical responsibility to love others as Christ loved us.
As JESUS SAID IN MATTHEW 25, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in! I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” May the Gospel be spread not only through our words, but also by our ministry to those who have fled persecution in their homelands.