Daniel R. Jackson, president of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, has authored an opinion piece for the Huffington Post arguing that the United States must open the door to refugees from war-torn countries like Syria. In the piece, "Adventists Respond to the Call to Care for Refugees," Elder Jackson makes the case that Scripture demands justice for strangers and foreigners seeking refuge.
To close the door to refugees cannot be an option. To "welcome" them by marking them with shame and suspicion is unacceptable. To incite fear based on prejudice is irresponsible. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are compelled to welcome ALL who are seeking refuge.
Jackson, who in the piece calls himself "a stranger in your land" (Jackson is Canadian, but lives and works in Maryland), says that he came to the United States not seeking refuge, but to lead the Adventist Church in North America—a church made strong by its diversity. Likewise, Jackson says, it is America's rich diversity that makes it a great nation.
He cites Adventist aid efforts, including ADRA's 25 tons of relief supplies in Macedonia for Syrian refugees, and Refugee Ministries in the United States that help provide resources for those emigrating from Iraq and Syria, among other places. But the essay is not simply a litany of Adventist accomplishments, it is personal.
I have seen the plight of the displaced first hand. In 2008, my wife and I traveled to Nakuru, Kenya to volunteer in a camp that housed some 16,000 of the nearly 600,000 people displaced internally by the deadly violence that followed disputed elections. We provided assistance to mothers and their newborn babies. We spoke to many who shared stories of fear and spoke of their desperate struggle to survive--people looking for a better life.
Jackson quotes the words of Emma Lazarus in her poem New Colossus, the words of which are engraved in America's Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
He argues that some American leaders would close that golden door to Syrians and Iraqis, but those leaders' fear-mongering voices must not win the day. While the Adventist Church unequivocally condemns sectarian and terrorist violence, "to deny innocent women, children, and men who are fleeing war, hunger, and disease refuge because of fear and prejudice is just as wrong."
Denouncing the rhetoric of hate and fear, Jackson implores people of faith and the leaders of the United States to leave open that golden door to the most vulnerable and in need among us.
Read the full essay here.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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