On Terrorism, Fear, and Refugees

Remember the terror in America on September 11, 2001?

Remember when the planes hit the trade towers, and nobody knew exactly what was going on?

Remember when people jumped out of the buildings, because they were burning to death inside?

Remember catching your breath as the buildings collapsed one at a time, and wondering how this could be real?

Remember the despair as you realized how many people and rescue workers were still in those buildings?

Remember the heart wrenching phone calls to loved ones from the heroic people on flight 93?

Remember the astronomical death toll, and the total shock and disbelief as the events unfolded in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.?

I remember. I was living in Boston. The terrorists were in my city. They boarded planes at my airport, the airport where I had boarded planes so many times. They attacked my country. They threatened my safety. They took thousands of lives. They set out to destroy everything we stand for as Americans. I remember the fear, the tears, the horror, the disbelief, the outrage. I remember.

Remember the two bombs that went off at the Boston Marathon in 2013 — The ones that killed two beautiful young women and a precious eight-year-old boy?

Remember how they maimed hundreds of people, destroying and changing lives forever?

Remember the scenes of people running in terror from the blasts, while the police and first responders raced in?

Remember the blood in the streets, and the images of people with limbs blown off?

Remember how the entire city and surrounding neighborhoods went into lock down as authorities hunted down the terrorists, who shot and killed an MIT police officer, and took another man hostage?

I remember. I was at the Boston Marathon that day, but not in the area where the bombs went off. I was there with my family, and my young children. We talked about heading to the finish line, but changed our minds shortly before the bombs went off. I remember the way they ripped away our joy and our safety. I was in my home watching the news all day when the city went into lock down. I remember the feelings of anger, horror, fear, disbelief, and helplessness. I remember.

I remember reliving these feelings as scenes from Paris flooded the media.

Remember when the tiny limp body of a two-year-old boy named Aylan washed up onto a beach in Turkey, and the world started screaming that we have to do something to help?

Remember how Aylan Kurdi and his family put faces on the refugee crisis?

Remember how heartbroken we all were when we heard his father cry out, “Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die”?

I remember. I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the pain in my soul as I started reading stories from refugees and relief organizations, trying to figure out some way to help. I remember trying to imagine what this fear for so many refugees must be like. It must be like the fear I remember from September 11, or the fear from the marathon bombing. It must be much worse. It must be a great enough fear for people to leave everything, to risk everything, and for some to lose everything. What must it be like when losing everything is better than staying where you are? I don’t know. I hope I never know.

I understand the fear of allowing refugees into our country in the wake of the Paris attacks. I understand the fear that terrorists are already here. They are. They were here on September 11. They were at the Boston Marathon. They were in my city. They probably still are.

But we can’t let fear drive out reason. And we can’t let fear drive out love.

Refugees are registered with the UN before being recommended for relocation to the United States. They are then vetted by multiple U.S. agencies before entering the country.

Half of the 12 million refugees who have fled Syria are children. These children are at great risk, and living in dangerous conditions. They lack clean water and warm clothes. They are at risk for everything from illness to exploitation.

We should be doing everything we can to keep our country safe. We should also be doing everything we can to help those who need our help. It’s hard.

As I remember the fear and the heartbreak, I also remember these words:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For 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 needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

If you want to help directly, please go to the World Vision website and become a Refugee Responder.

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