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Welcome More Refugees, Not Less

Displaced Iraqi children are seen at the Amriyat al Fallujah camp in Anbar Province, Iraq January 3, 2018.
Displaced Iraqi children are seen at the Amriyat al Fallujah camp in Anbar Province, Iraq January 3, 2018. | (Photo: REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily)

We are in the middle of the worst migrant crisis in world history. Today, nearly 70 million people are forcibly displaced, a number greater than the combined populations of California and Texas. Children, who comprise about 30 percent of the world's population, account for half of the world's refugee population. The decision to welcome more refugees should be an easy one for the United States.

While the migrant crisis is at an historic high, refugee resettlement in the United States is at an historic low. At about this time last year, the U.S. government committed to help 45,000 refugees find homes in the U.S. during the current fiscal year – down from 110,000 the previous year – and has resettled fewer than 18,000 refugees this fiscal year with less than two months remaining. Making matters worse, recent reports indicate that the U.S. government may cap resettlement at just 25,000 next year. Surely we can do better. The lives of children and women around the world depend on us doing better.

Bethany Christian Services is committed to having mercy on those who seek refuge – those who have suffered from violent conflict at the hands of terrorists or as victims of sex trafficking and slavery. We know that refugee resettlement saves lives and believe that the U.S. should commit to resettling at least 75,000 refugees next year, a number that reflects the gravity of the global refugee crisis and is in line with our nation's historic average. We also know that we're not alone and that many fellow Christians understand and support the need to help those who were forced to flee for their lives.

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Our Christian faith compels us to aid vulnerable strangers. Jesus made this abundantly clear when he instructed his followers to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27) and used a powerful story to demonstrate what that love looks like. This kind of love extends not simply to our friends or those who live in our communities, but reaches beyond our borders to people like the Samaritans who were some of the most despised people of Jesus' day. The answer to the question Jesus asks about who is a true neighbor is "the one who had mercy," and Jesus simply but profoundly instructs us to "go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37)

Bethany has served refugees and immigrants for over 40 years with an emphasis on finding safe, loving homes for refugee children who have lost their parents and families. In fact, Bethany finds homes for more unaccompanied refugee minors than any other organization in the United States.

To serve the families resettling in the United States, Bethany has a network of churches, individuals, and over 400 businesses that employ refugees. Just last year, Bethany's Refugee Employment Program placed 682 refugees with over 130 employers.

As Christ followers, we must view the refugee and immigration crisis through the eyes of those who are fleeing persecution. Refugees are our neighbors. If we are great at one thing, let's be great at the Great Commandment – Loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind and showing that we love God by loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37).

Jesus instructs his followers to provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world. Why? Because we are all made in God's image and we are all neighbors.

If you don't know a refugee, I encourage you to meet one – whether you sponsor a refugee family and help them adjust to life in the United States or get to know them across social media platforms. As we learn one another's stories, barriers break down. People of faith should be leading the way.

Let's be the kind of neighbor Jesus talked about and have love, compassion, and mercy for all our neighbors – the neighbor next door and the neighbor forced to live in a refugee camp.

Chris Palusky is President/CEO of Bethany Christian Services

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