On the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Unity not Fear by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileIn the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis, our humanity is being tested and we are not fairing so well.  Twenty-six US senators have called to refuse entry for refugees in their states, presidential candidate and governor of my home state of Ohio, John Kasich included.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who claims to be deeply committed to Catholic social teaching, argues that we must “pause” in responding to Syrian refugees so there can be greater scrutiny.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has also continued his deplorable speech and xenophobia saying “How come they never end up in the neighborhood where the limousine liberal lives? …Behind gated communities and with armed security around. Mrs. Clinton, you have suggested we take in 65,000 refugees. How many can we bring to your neighborhood in Chappaqua?”

Some Republicans have even suggested that we only allow Christian refugees to cross our borders.  To which I stand with Obama’s response, “That’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are.” And, it is not Christian.  Jesus, who was a refugee, would never agree with such a stance.  Remember? “I was a stranger, and you invited me in…” (Matthew 25:35).



These Christian politicians who claim to look to Jesus as the example are playing on the deepest fears of Americans so that they may deny refuge to those in crisis – those who are no different than Jesus.  As Cecilia Wang states, “Fear mongering blames refugees for the very terror they are fleeing, and erodes our own civil liberties.”

Emma Lazarus’ quote on the Statue of Liberty states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free…” This is what our nation stands for, this is what President Obama is acknowledging as he argues that we must accept refugees into the US. And while I am certainly not comparing Obama to Jesus, such a quote honors Jesus’ message of liberation for all.

All Lives Matter

It is easy to share our supposed Christian values from the political stage, when it is convenient, but when those values are necessary, when it is time to stand with those who are in the greatest need, our true principles are laid bare for all to see.

This is not a time where we should give in to fear.  Rather it is a time to unite, a time to honor the humanity of every person.  By not doing so, we play into the expectations of those who terrorize the world.   As Nicolas Henin states, “In the meantime there is much we can achieve in the aftermath of this atrocity, and the key is strong hearts and resilience, for that is what they fear. I know them: bombing they expect. What they fear is unity.”

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Religion and Gender Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and most recently co-edited the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina-Dysert is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina-Dysert is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website ginamessinadysert.com.

Author: Gina Messina

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for the Huffington Post and is the author or editor of five books including "Faithfully Feminist" and "Jesus in the White House: Make Humanity Great Again." Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence. Gina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences, and in the national news circuit including appearances on Tavis Smiley, MSNBC, NPR, and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the globe. She is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing for those who have encountered gender-based violence. Connect with Gina on Facebook, Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Instagram @GinaMessinaPhD, and her website http://www.ginamessina.com.

16 thoughts on “On the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Unity not Fear by Gina Messina-Dysert”

  1. Let us remember that our ancestors fled persecution, poverty, and war in their own countries.

    I wish that those who fear the refugees could see the people arriving here on the shores of Lesbos. There is nothing frightening about them. Many of them coming in family groups and almost all of them have a smile on their faces when they arrive. The Syrians in particular are well-educated, and given a chance, will become contributing members of America or any other country that takes them in.

    If any “Muslim” men or women become terrorists, we need to take a good hard look at the “terror” of bombs and invading armies that turned them in that direction.

    “These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki. Growing up Sunni Arab was no fun. A later interviewee described his life growing up under American occupation: He couldn’t go out, he didn’t have a life, and he specifically mentioned that he didn’t have girlfriends. An Islamic State fighter’s biggest resentment was the lack of an adolescence. Another of the interviewees was displaced at the critical age of 13, when his family fled to Kirkuk from Diyala province at the height of Iraq’s sectarian civil war. They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government.”

    I personally feel more afraid of “Christians” who want to drag the US into another senseless and unwinnable war than I am of the Syrians and Afghanis who come through my village fleeing war.


    1. I completely agree with your last line here. The war hawks who orchestrate destruction from their plush offices are ones to fear.


    2. I am of the same opinion and feelings, Carol. The “christian terrorists” are right among us and more dangerous than any bomb. And I have not forgotten the illegal attacks of GWB and Cheney that destabilized that region, or the burning of ancient artifacts and books that the US stood by and approved, the military bases built, the profits made by weapons providers. The only thing more dangerous than “christian terrorists” is the ignorance and fear that lead some people to believe and follow them – and it’s all in Jesus’ name.

      But then, there are others. The small town in Scotland where the local newspaper met arriving refugees with a banner headline that said: “WELCOME”. The Dominican Sisters from Mosul who went into exile with their people and provide some medical assistance, schooling, child care, in the refugee camp where they live. The people of my city, gathering together to help welcome and re-settle refugees. All is not lost. Human decency and compassion will overcome in the actions of people like yourself.


    1. And imagine them living with dignity.
      My brother-in-law is helping organize sports activities for the 500 refugees in their small German town (total population of town pre-refugees= 14,000). Sports programs are popular and in demand- not a lot of language required and the sense of being able to do something well- even if it is just a game.


      1. We’re hoping for the same here. Sports programs are a very important way for people to make new friends, especially for younger folk. It’s also a really important way to work through trauma. Not just having a physical outlet, but through learning to trust again through team activities.


  2. Over the years, my late father Henry used to remind me, “Dukes and queens do not migrate.”

    Most of us (Native Americans and African Americans being notable exceptions) are here in this land of great promise and great heartbreak because someone didn’t like the way things were somewhere else.

    To the Syrians and others seeking refuge, there is one word to say: WELCOME.


    1. Many of the Syrian refugees are educated middle class; managers, administrators, professors, small business owners. The poor have too few resources to migrate.

      How many of our own middle class jobs would exist in a civil war economy?


  3. A friend sent around a cartoon illustrating the first meeting of Columbus and a native American. However the native American won’t let Columbus in, instead he says: “Sorry but we’re not accepting refugees.”


  4. Thank you so much, Gina. The Emma Lazarus poem via the Statue of Liberty so important, as you rightly mention…here is that great text in its entirely:

    “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


  5. Beautiful words Gina and all who have commented here. I hear people all around me now expressing their fear of immigrants, never wanting to acknowledge the part the US government has played in all of this. Apparently a large percentage of US Republicans in 1939 did not want to accept Jewish refugees fleeing from the terror of Hitler. Some things never change or at least change very slowly. Remember the words of the Central and South American social justice movements of the 80’s – El pueblo unido ha mas sera partido. I chanted that one at many marches. The pueblo is now the world.

    It give me great joy to hear the words of so many French people expressing the need for unity and compassion. Let’s keep ourselves strong and committed to compassion not fear.


  6. Brava! Everyone on the continent is the child of immigrants. Even the distant ancestors of the Native Americans came here something like 10,000 years ago. The possibility that a terrorist may be lurking in any given group is indeed frightening, but that only makes the issue more complex. There’s an old word that describes the Republican candidates and their supporters: SIMPLISSIMUS. I don’t have to translate it, do I?


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