Presiding Bishop addresses Syrian refugee crisis: ‘Be not afraid!’

Posted Nov 18, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry addresses the current Syrian refugee crisis:

“Be not afraid!”  

Often in the gospels, fear grips the people of God, and time and again, either the angels, or Our Lord himself, respond with the same words of comfort: “Be not afraid.”

In times like this fear is real.   And I share that fear with you.  Our instinct tells us to be afraid. The fight-or-flight mentality takes hold.  At the present moment, many across our Church and our world are grasped by fear in response to the terrorist attacks that unfolded in Paris last Friday.  These fears are not unfounded.  We can and should support law enforcement officials who are working hard and at great risk to protect us from crime and keep us safe.   And yet, especially when we feel legitimate fear, our faith reminds us “Be not afraid.”  The larger truth is that our ultimate security comes from God in Christ.

In the Book of Leviticus, God says to the people of Israel that, “the foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  Accordingly, we welcome the stranger.  We love our neighbor.  The Episcopal Church has long been committed to resettling refugees in our own communities fleeing violence and persecution.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries service, works with dioceses and congregations, and the United States government, to settle refugees in communities across this great country.  The Episcopal Church has been engaged in this ministry for more than 75 years.  We will not let the nightmare this world often is keep us from carrying out the words of Jesus who told us to be a neighbor to those in need.

Refugees from places like Syria seek to escape the precise same ideological and religious extremism that gave birth to the attacks in Paris.  They seek entry into our communities because their lives are imprisoned by daily fear for their existence.   Just as Jesus bids us not to be afraid, we must, in turn, pass those words of comfort to those who turn to us for help.

But Jesus calls us to go even further: not just to love our neighbors and our kin, but to love our enemies.  This is particularly difficult when we are afraid.    But even in the midst of our fear we stand on the solid ground of our faith and proclaim the faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  In practical terms, this may mean finding strength in prayer, or in our neighbors, or in our churches, or in acts of solidarity with others who live in fear.   This is the hope that casts out fear.

The fear is real.  So we pray.  We go to church.  We remember who we are in Jesus.   Our resurrection hope is larger than fear.   Let nothing keep us from that hope, that faith, that security in Gods dream for all of humanity.

“Be not afraid!”

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

The following resources are offered for education and understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis.

• Episcopal Public Policy Network has posted an overview and a call to action here

• Two live webinars have been slated for November 19 and November 23.  Information is here.



Comments (22)

  1. fluke watson says:

    Be not afraid OK, but love our enemies? The people who at every opportunity want you dead? No way. I think you’re way off on this one. There is absolutely no logical reason to love or even forgive these people

    1. Randy Heyn-Lamb says:

      Fluke: At first I wondered if you were being ironic. If you are, it was too subtle for me.

      If our Presiding Bishop is “way off on this one”, he is in good company. The Gospel of Matthew quotes Jesus as saying “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. And while the Apostle Paul doesn’t use the word love, he does give form to that love by saying “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink”. The logic in loving (offering food and drink) and forgiving your enemies is that it makes it so much harder to remain enemies. It has the potential to turn enemies into friends.

      I am proud to say that my church recently sponsored a family from Syria to come to the US. This couple and their two young children are not my enemies. They are victims of circumstances beyond their control who have seen their old lives shattered, their dreams deferred. Now they have a chance to rebuild their lives, reimagine their hopes. And I am happy to be a small part of that process.

    2. June McClary says:

      Following Jesus has never be easy for His path was exceedingly difficult and not an easy one to follow. But, if one is a TRUE Christian, he/she WILL indeed do their level best to “love thy neighbor as thyself” whether friend or foe for that is the second of the two Commandments set down for us by Jesus, Himself:
      Matthew 22:35-40
      35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
      36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
      37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
      38 This is the first and great commandment.
      39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
      40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

      He didn’t say that it is your choice, but that it is His Holy Commandment.

    3. Harvey Cottrell says:

      There may be no logical reason; but there is a reason. It’s Jesus. He has shown us the most excellent way. Love. Peter filled with fear and anger drew his sword and struck the soldier in the garden, and Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”
      I his great mountainside sermon Jesus turned the world upside down or as the Presiding Bishop told us; he really turned it right-side up. Following Christ isn’t always an intellectual pursuit or an exercise in logic (See the presiding bishops sermon on You Tube, “we need some crazy Christians”) I had the great privilege of being present when he gave that sermon. My prayer for us as Episcopalians is that we maintain our rich tradition of pursuing truth though intellect; but that we also return to our rich tradition of experiencing Christ with our hearts. It’s not always going to be logical or make sense; Jesus did not come to make life easy; he came to change this world ( through us) into the dream God has for it. I stand with Michael Curry in that dream; I pray for him and our Church. The most repeated phrase in all of the scripture is, “Fear Not” do not be afraid, before I even read this post i was singing the Catholic hymn be not afraid to myself yesterday morning, thinking about the grip fear has on our country and the world–and praying the words, “Let perfect love cast out fear”
      Do not be afraid Church..
      Bad things will happen– this is part of life–it does not make it easy–I’m not trying to oversimplify, I just want to encourage us all–
      Darkness cannot resist the light forever..
      loved ones..we know how the story ends..
      Pray for the Church and the World.

  2. Patrick Andersen says:

    Please pray for the many who suffer for the misdeeds of the few. These would include, for example, the generations of Southerners who suffer verbal abuse because of views held by their ancestors, the Northerners who are viewed with suspicion because of actions by the Carpetbaggers after the Civil War, the millions of responsible gun owners who are lumped in with crazed killers, the millions of Christians who are branded with the extreme views of a small minority, and the millions of Muslims who are hated and feared because a small number of terrorists misuse the name of Islam to commit atrocities. And please pray for the people of Paris as they grieve.

  3. Thomas Hofer says:

    Bishop Curry, that is excellent! I fully support you in doing whatever we can and should do to make love cast out fear. I have come across examples of irrational fear and have then be more fearful of these examples than of potential enemies. But I also recall meeting a woman in a country school who told me, “I have such faith that no matter what happens, God will steer in in the right path and that we will be well.” Significantly, her child was an outstanding pupil in school.

  4. The Rev'd Edward Thompson says:

    You mean Jesus is “way off,” Fluke Watson? Because those are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. And, it is evident in Scripture that there is very little, if anything, that is “logical” about what he did and said. Yet, it works — now or later.

  5. just tupper says:

    366 times in the Bible we read a command of Fear Not, Be not afraid, Do not be afraid–the most common commandment in the Bible. What is the worst that can happen?–We die and go to heaven, supposedly a place that is much better than anyplace in this world. Jesus of Nazareth is radically nonviolent, and he says, “Follow me.” Jesus was not a Christian;” Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew. Matthew:7.12—read it. Should we kill all Christians because a huge number of Christian hate groups exist? Should we kill all German Christians because some were Nazis? Bp. Curry is right. Follow the anointed Jesus and “Do not be afraid, ” and do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ or as the Koran advises, “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” Instead of pointing fingers, extend your hand.

  6. karen devries says:

    Praying for us all!

  7. karen devries says:

    It would be easier if the news footage of refugees wasnt so obviously more men..who look fit and strong….and capable..of anything. Praying for us all!

    1. Nolan McBride says:

      “76% of these refugees are women and children.”

      1. Marj Oughton says:

        The newsfootage wouldn’t draw as many viewers if it showed women and children who are cold and hungry with little shelter. Much better to show footage of riots that took place in other places and label them as happening now. I am not denying that there are problems; this is a huge migration. The media, however, has carefully showed us the pictures that instill fear.

  8. Michael D. Bond says:

    Love wins.
    Pray for our enemies is what we are taught to do.
    I am very disappointed in the governors who, in the name of safety, try to block the entry of people who need our help and love.
    Love wins.

  9. Logan Miller says:

    I believe in trying times God calls us all to use our intellect in making decisions regarding enrich His kingdom. I see no rational argument opposing a temporary moratorium on these refugees if the express purpose is to simply proceed with caution in plugging these refugees into our Christian society. This is not racism or bigotry, yet an intense desire to protect Christians everywhere while also accepting as many peace loving refugees as possible. Blessings!

  10. Dear Friends, fear is a valid and normal reaction, associated with our instinct to survive. The call of the Gospel Life is to live above giving into our knee jerk reaction, at the risk of our own lives. Several thousand Christians have been martyred this year, rather then rejecting Jesus and the Gospel Life we are called to in Baptism. We Christians here in America have had it so easy for so long we are comfortable in forgetting that we are called to give our lives for others in the name of Our Lord. It is not about me or you as individuals, it is about us as the Community of the church and as compassionate humans living in society. We fear what we don’t understand, study and learn the truth about the Islamic Faith and way of life, we come from the same stock, we, the Jews and Muslims are all children of Abraham. Work, pray, and strive to bring the Peace of God to our world.

    1. fluke watson says:

      We don’t have to give our lives. For what? I understand giving your life for a cause. What is the cause. It is a waste of human life. Kill this enemy and give yourselves an opportunity to enrich the lives of others through your works. Don’t waste life in the name of God

    2. Richard McClellan says:

      Amen and amen and amen and………..AMEN!!! Too many of these right wing Christians have forgotten that we are called to be CHRISTIANS before Americans. As you said, we’ve had it easy for far too long.

  11. fluke watson says:

    I never challenged the ‘not be afraid’ part. I challenged ‘love your enemies’ Maybe I’m not as good a Christian as you all are, maybe I can’t quote passages from the bible as well as you all can, and maybe I’m not as forgiving as I should be.
    You can pray for your enemies as Michael says, you can dream like Harvey does, but to try and befriend them Randy…no way. These enemies will never become your friends. They won’t give you the chance to befriend them, to negotiate, because they want you dead and if you don’t want to be dead, then the negotiations have failed. At least the Romans gave Jesus a chance to speak, to pray. These monsters won’t do that God bless all of you. You have goodness in your hearts and you mean well, but don’t be naïve and accept them as friends and hope that they somehow through the intervention of the holy spirit this too will pass

    P.S. Rev’d I hope in your comments you were not equating your Bishop to Jesus
    just tupper…you scare me dude with your comment about ‘the worst that can happen’ You need to live life to the fullest and not worry about getting to heaven. if you live your life honorably, with respect and love, things have a way of turning your way

    1. Lewis Ray says:

      Hello Fluke,
      We are instructed to not only love our enemies but also to hate evil. So if our enemies in this context are other human beings and evil is Satan, then perhaps the instructions are the following: Love your enemies for no other reason than they are human beings; do not harbor contempt for them. Hate Satan and the evil tactic of contempt used to devalue human beings and divide us; fearlessly speak out against contempt and how Satan effectively uses it to confuse us and hide his true intent to separate all God’s people from Father Abraham’s one and only true God. Whom is the same God known to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. What better evil at Satan’s disposal to divide God’s people than contempt?

      Arguably, the opposite of Christian love is not hate but contempt.

      Our human journey together while we love all of God’s children, hate Satan, and expose Satan’s lies and tactics are lives with less fear and more power through the Holy Spirit. I am a work in progress, as we all are. Regards!

  12. Nolan McBride says:

    I think this article is particularly relevant to this issue.

    1. Paul Canady says:

      Thank you!

  13. Benjamin Hersman says:

    Satin will not win! We all have fear. Some fear is faith based. We all should fear God while knowing that he loves all of us. Lovve will conquer hate.

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