by Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow
Over the last few months, especially the last few weeks as the weather has started to turn cold, Syrian and Iraqi refugees arriving at the shores of Greece have been weighing on my heart and mind. The pictures of little children being taken off rafts or pictures of children sleeping in the forest in Serbia as they make their way to Hungary with their families.
When I look at these images and hear the stories, I hear parents, a grandfather, an uncle or a widow desperately trying to find safety and refuge for their loved ones. I hear a longing for normalcy, a longing for peace. A longing for a better future for their little ones.
Yesterday some of our political leaders demonstrated, yet again, how disconnected they are to people and their realities. There is no way that you could hear and see these heartbreaking stories and vote to exclude Syrian and Iraqi refugees from coming to the United States. Their Islamophobia masked in national security has not fooled anyone.
This narrative of exclusion and oppression isn't a new one. It is one that has repeated and continues to repeat itself in history. The lawmakers' attitude towards these refugees are not that different from their attitude towards millions of immigrants who live in the U.S. contributing to the society, who just don't happen to have the right papers. Their attitude towards these refugees are not that different from their attitude towards the poorest of the poor in America who work for minimum wage (also known as poverty wages) and cannot put a roof over their family's heads and provide regular meals for their children.
Our country is facing a crisis of leadership because our elected leaders refuse to believe that their job is for the common good. They refuse to believe that it is their responsibility to work for and fight for the most vulnerable- Syrian and Iraqi refugees, immigrant families and low-wage workers. Our leaders are driven by fear- fear of not being reelected, fear of losing large campaign donors and ultimately, the fear of losing power and control.
Fear does not win. When people who live in hope and fight for justice work together, we can and do drive out fear. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against Islamophobia that is driving our legislators to pass a bill that would stop women and children fleeing war from coming to our shores. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against splitting up families due to deportations. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against poverty wages and corporate greed that puts profits before people.
As we go into our Thanksgiving week, it is my prayer that the spirit of hospitality and generosity will rule this nation. It is my prayer that we give thanks that we get to partner with our creator in this journey of seeking justice and peace.
Sung Yeon is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Interfaith Worker Justice and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church.