[This is another post lightly adapted from one originally written for my blog, “On Second Thought,” offered on the website for “Context with Lorna Dueck.”]
I want to confess two things right up front about the Syrian refugees coming to Canada. I admire the people who are bringing them and caring for them, whether politicians, social service workers, churches, and other community groups. And at the same time I’m afraid of what all these newcomers might mean for Canada’s future.
I’ve seen the photos and the video clips of anguish, fear, and desperation. I’ve seen the awful camps. I’ve seen the devastated cities and towns. Of course I want the victims of Syria’s agony to have homes, schools, jobs, and security.
But I’ve also seen the riots in the banlieues of Paris. I’ve read about sexual assaults, vicious gangs, and suicide bombings in the very capitals of Europe originating out of immigrant populations violently alienated from their new countries. Of course I don’t want us to import more trouble than we can handle.
The refugee problem today is as bad as it has ever been. Most refugees do not speak adequate French or English. Most do not come from similar (= modern Western) cultural backgrounds. Most are not Christians and many in fact come from societies that have taught them to see Christians as rivals, if not enemies.
As the “Context with Lorna Dueck” program on this subject made clear, however, we also are better equipped to deal well with these challenges than we have ever been. We have rich and successful experience with refugees as diverse as Armenians and Vietnamese, and it is people from these communities who give us shining examples of “paying it forward” to care for those who now need a refuge.