Since March 2011, Syria’s political climate quickly escalated after peaceful, anti-government protests were met by the government’s violent crackdown. Soon, several armed opposition groups, divided between secular and religious fighters and ethnic groups, began fighting back.
Six years later, the Syrian Civil War still rages. More than 11 million people have been killed or forced to flee from their homes. Many Syrian refugees are fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey, which are all struggling to support the influx of people. Specifically, in Turkey, host communities are being overwhelmed by the refuge influx, leading to cultural tensions despite cultural similarities. According to a survey conducted by the Hacettepe University, more than two thirds of Turks do not think that Syrians will fit into Turkish society.
Other Syrians try to go to Europe, attempting to embark on the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece. They face challenges such as a lack of resources, minimal offered services, and closed routes.
I went to a panel on the Syrian Crisis Migration and Refugee Challenges held by the French Embassy on June 14th. Representatives from Doctors of the World Turkey, the TENT Foundation, the New America Foundation, and the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center were on the panel. The moderator, Arshad Mohammed from Reuters, immediately addressed the elephant in the room—the Trump Administration’s attempt at reducing funds for humanitarian work and limiting the number of refugees entering the United States. Of course, the panel had a liberal-bias as addressed by Gideon Maltz, former deputy chief of staff to Ambassador Samantha Power and director of human rights and multilateral affairs at the U.S. National Security Council under the Obama Administration.
The government has an obligation to protect its citizens from foreign invaders, most recently taking the form of terrorists. Trump’s immigration policy agenda is based upon American citizens fear of terrorism. It is rational to fear admitting Syrian refugees, as ISIS has infiltrated refugee groups.
The United States, like all other countries in the world, must find a balance between the moral obligation to help the less unfortunate, and protecting domestic security. Due to the current terror climate in the international community, it is reasonable for governments to limit refugee influx. So, the main topic of the panel revolved around resettlement and reintegration refugee programs. Should the government step in or should it be left to private hands when it comes to resettlement programs?
Often, local leadership in small towns play a larger role in resettling refugees than impersonal government-funded programs due to the importance of setting the right cultural tone to welcomes refugees. For example, many evangelical churches and organizations have welcomed Syrian refugees in their privately funded programs; World Relief has over 1055 participating churches nationwide. “It’s not unusual that we have politicians timid in the face of fear,” said Dr. Russell D. Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, “But the task of the church is a different one. The church is called to see the image of God in all people and to minister Christ’s presence to all people. That’s what churches are doing.”
The problem with U.S. involvement in Syria is that despite good intentions, foreign involvement has historically backfired and cost many American lives and taxpayer money. The recent U.S. strike against a Syrian warplane is hurting American interests rather than helping them by undermining the fight against terrorism in Syria and increasing tensions between the United States and Russia. Iran feels threatened by the recent U.S. air strikes as it views the United States will prevent it from expanding its sphere of influence to Lebanon. Furthermore, Russia responded to the incident by threatening to target U.S. aircraft and U.S. allies west of the Euphrates in addition to eliminating a communication hotline used to avoid aircraft collisions over Syrian airspace. With more air strikes, it seems that the United States is playing a larger role into the Syrian Civil War and focusing less on combating terrorism.
U.S. humanitarian aid also has its problems—cronyism exists in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey who all pocket U.S. foreign aid purposed to fund resettlement programs. What we, as Americans, can do is what we do best—protecting people’s natural rights—in this case, the right to life and liberty. We should replicate the attitudes of the evangelical churches and organizations in our local communities; we should open our arms to those who need our help. Those who do receive legal refugee status in the United States should have a supportive community behind them. It is better for refugees from terrorist-ridden countries to experience compassionate Americans lending a hand than have them than see Americans turning our backs to those suffering. This could lead to refugees to be more sympathetic towards ISIS and be an easier target for ISIS to buy financially. Additionally, a successful resettlement program will help refugees become positive contributors to our economy, and the world.