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Faith leaders say refugees from Syria, elsewhere require compassion, acceptance

24 Nov 2015 – By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Boston cardinal and the Maryland Catholic Conference were among hundreds of faith leaders who called for compassion in addressing the world refugee crisis and stressed the importance of developing a national immigration policy based on humanitarian need.

Acknowledging that the times are “dangerous” and that “enhanced security procedures are needed,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley in a statement 19 November cautioned that in developing an immigration policy, “decisions concerning the specific measure taken require careful deliberation.”

The Maryland Catholic Conference, which includes the Baltimore and Washington archdioceses and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, in a statement 18 November called on the country to welcome “those feeling persecution in other countries, including refugees seeking asylum from Syria.”

The statements came as lawmakers in Congress and governors opposed measures to resettle Syrian refugees in response to a string of extremist attacks in Paris 13 November that left 130 people dead and hundreds more injured.

Republicans in the House of Representatives 19 November won a veto-proof majority, 289-137, on a bill blocking Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. The bill’s status in the Senate was uncertain, however. In addition, governors in at least 30 states have called for an end to Syrian resettlement until security concerns can be addressed.

Elsewhere, Louisiana State Police provided security at diocesan offices after a female caller threatened people in the the resettlement program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The threat came as Catholic Charities staffers handled calls from people concerned that the agency was resettling Syrians, said Carol Spruell, Catholic Charities communications coordinator.

“They investigated the call and found the person who did it and had a chat,” Spruell told Catholic News Service 20 November “They took it seriously as they would with any threat like that. It was unfortunate that it happened.”

No charges were expected in the incident, Spruell said.

She added that the agency had received complaints about its resettlement efforts initially after the attacks in Paris but that by 19 November “the tide really turned in that the calls of support are outnumbering the ones who were critical of our work.”

Cardinal O’Malley said that proposals that “simply exclude Syrian refugees as such lack the balance and humanitarian perspective needed at this time.” Christian and Muslim Syrians, he noted, have been fleeing their homeland for months only to be “set adrift in a chaotic world, unprepared to provide for their safety or honor their humanity.”

“The barbaric attacks in Paris, which demand a strong response and require policies that as best possible prevent recurrence, should not be used to efface the memory of Syrians and others from the Middle East and Africa who are desperately in need of shelter, support and safety,” the cardinal’s statement said.

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