October 5, 2015 — Echoing Pope Francis’ call to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, the Society of Jesus is urging elected officials to admit greater numbers of Syrian refugees to both Canada and the United States.
Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, joined other faith leaders from across the country in writing to members of U.S. Congress to urge that vulnerable individuals from a host of religions, ethnicities and backgrounds continue to be resettled in the United States. In a letter to the Canadian government, Fr. Jean-Marc Biron, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits in French Canada, and Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada, asked the government to commit to welcoming at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees to the country.
These letters came after Pope Francis urged that "every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family" of refugees fleeing violence. More than four million refugees have left their homes, despite treacherous routes by sea or through human smugglers, facing high risk along the way.
Fr. Kesicki and other religious leaders and leaders of faith-based organizations, including Jesuit Refugee Service North America Regional Director Armando Borja, asked lawmakers “to recognize that new Americans of all faiths and backgrounds contribute to our economy, our community, and our congregations,” in response to the threat of legislation in Congress that might limit access to U.S. protection for Muslims or non-Christian minorities.
Resettlement should remain open to refugees of all faiths, and refugees “are powerful ambassadors of the American Dream and our nation’s founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom, and liberty and justice for all,” the letter said.
“As people of faith, our values call us to welcome the stranger, love our neighbor, and stand with the vulnerable, regardless of their religion. We pray that in your discernment, compassion for the plight of refugees will touch your hearts. We urge you to be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection.”
Similarly, Frs. Biron and Bisson’s letter asked that the Canadian government to welcome more Syrian refugees, increase humanitarian assistance to the region and otherwise help to build peace.
“It is of utmost importance to find a durable solution to the Syrian crisis. It is a very complex situation,” Frs. Biron and Bisson said. “There are no ready-made answers, but certainly, war is not one of them. Western Governments, Canada among them, continue to believe that we can bring a lasting peace to a region by waging war. However, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that war sows seeds that grow into resentment and rage.
“We, as Jesuits, are inspired by Jesus’ call to bring peace to this world. … We therefore ask you to do the right thing by opening Canada’s doors to the Syrian people in need, by increasing our humanitarian aid to the region and by allowing Canada to be an instrument of peace.”
Jesuits and the Jesuit Refugee Service are on the ground in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, providing emergency assistance to refugees fleeing conflict zones, and they are also providing relief to those arriving in Europe.