Faith Leaders Join Together, Ask U.S. to Increase Support for Syrian Refugees

September 28, 2015

WASHINGTON – As the public support for increased Syrian refugee resettlement grows along with the need for larger resettlement numbers, senior religious leaders and experts from humanitarian organizations Church World Service and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service called for an increase in overall resettlement numbers, including at least 100,000 Syrian refugees in 2016.

“We are calling on the Obama Administration to admit at least 100,000 Syrian refugees, in addition to the annual number of refugees from all parts of the world. And we call for Congress to support this step of leadership,” said Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the United Methodist Church, Greater Los Angeles Area. “Our faiths call us to welcome the stranger, stand with the vulnerable and love our neighbor. Our failure to act with welcome and protection towards refugees will undermine the values of compassion and justice that our nation stands for.”

Joining faith leaders, Representative David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and Qusai Zakarya, a Syrian asylee and international advocate for peace in Syria, reiterated their calls for an increase in the U.S. response.

“This is the single worst refugee crisis the world has seen since the end of World War II. It is not a crisis that affects a certain group of Syrians more than others. The people who are fleeing are doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen and women of different ethnicities and religious traditions, but all them are human beings in need of immediate assistance,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI). Rep. Cicilline recently led an effort with 70 other Members of Congress to increase refugee resettlement number to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees in 2016.

With more than 60 million people displaced internationally and over 4 million Syrian refugees worldwide, speakers called for a proportional response from the United States, increasing overall refugee resettlement to 200,000 refugees, including at least 100,000 Syrian refugees. Speakers also condemned any legislation that would restrict the resettlement process on the basis of religion.

“If the Obama Administration’s political will can match the community will for welcome, it is absolutely possible to receive and resettle 200,000 refugees successfully next year,” said Linda Hartke, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “As a nation, we have done it before – after World War II and after the war in Southeast Asia. We can be this generous as a nation once again – and we know that these newcomers only make our economy, our communities and our nation stronger.”

As a member of Refugee Council USA and on behalf of its 37 member communions around the country, Church World Service has been urging the United States to accept 200,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2016, including at least 100,000 Syrians. Jen Smyers, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the CWS Immigration and Refugee Program, facilitated the press conference and thanked the religious leaders.

“Welcoming refugees who are our world’s most vulnerable to this land of the free should never require a religious litmus test to step onto our shores,” said the Rev. Ron Degges, President of Disciples Home Mission of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). “Rather, we must counter anti-Muslim sentiment at every turn—allowing us to offer protection to Syrian refugees. As Pope Francis has said, ‘what are we waiting for?’”

To watch the full press conference, please visit this link.