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FIRST-PERSON: Let refugee children come

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Thousands of Kurdish children have joined the millions of children worldwide who are crossing national borders seeking refuge in difficult times. Having neither the desire nor capacity to inflict harm on others, the children join their mothers and others in flight from harm.

Communities like the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, trapped in economic and political violence, push their children to the relative safety of the shadows. They end up being uninvited guests in host nations that have plenty of difficulties of their own — like Turkey.

According to the United Nations, more than 8 million children in the world are refugees in countries other than their own. Every single day, 32,000 people in our world leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere. Pakistan currently hosts the largest number of refugees, most of them from Afghanistan.

Who really wants these displaced children? They are a burden on the host governments. They cannot work, fight or contribute much in any other way. They need food, shelter, education and medical attention. At the outset, they are takers rather than givers.

Policies and procedures in the United States are noted and often mimicked around the world. The world has heard of the U.S. border crisis, these thousands of unaccompanied minor children knocking on our door. How we treat them is a model for the rest of the world to follow.

Some suggest that tighter border security is the key to this crisis. We build a solid wall, too high to scale and too deep to burrow under, running along our border with Mexico from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Children arriving at the wall can neither see nor contact these United States. The children are Mexico’s problem.

If you allow these unaccompanied minor children to reach American soil, then all kinds of moral and economic dilemmas confront you. Will you treat their wounds? Will you give them new shoes? Should you enroll them in your schools? How will they be fed and housed? Should they be adjudicated?

Such logic holds that the simplest solution to the problem of the child refugee is an impenetrable wall.

This approach would likely work with Turkey and the Kurds. Tighter border security would prevent needy, foreign children from becoming Turkey’s problem. The Turks could turn them back at the border. If the children happened to sneak through a hole in the fence, Turkey could simply pick them up and drop them back on the other side.

This is the solution being offered in boardrooms and break rooms around the U.S. concerning the influx of minor children here. “These children are not our problem. They don’t belong here. Don’t let them in. If they get in, drop them back on the other side of the fence.” Children who sneak into the U.S. may encounter a truncated adjudication process that amounts to little more than this.

I doubt this is sound economic and international policy. Should the rest of the world follow this model, children seeking refuge would starve to death curled up at the closed gates. This actually happens somewhere in our world every day.

The Christian view of these troublesome little ones is clear. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16). Jesus saw the children as neighbors — as individuals of infinite worth. He taught His disciples to receive the children, and His church is doing so around the world.

I hear people say, “We can’t take care of the rest of the world.” It is true. We have limited resources even in these United States. Millions of children trapped in desperation represent an overwhelming need.

The children of which we speak, however, are not the faceless millions in harm’s way, but the children knocking on our door. They are our neighbors now, standing at our door, and Jesus would have us love them as we love ourselves.

It is not Christian to say “Sorry, kids. We really don’t have enough to go around.”

The Christian thing to do is to invite them into your house, sit them down at your table, offer them a bed for the night, and the next morning do your best to figure out what is right and good for them.

We are now showing the international community how a nation full of Christian churches responds to needy neighbors at the door.

Children are knocking on doors all over the world. Each one has a unique story to tell about how they ended up at this particular door or gate. No nation can handle them all; but all nations can help, some more than others. We are doing good as we receive these child refugees, care for them and seek to understand their individual stories and to discover what is best for them and us.

Children are our greatest resource worldwide. They are the future of life on this planet. If we treat them with kindness, as surely we must, they will likely respond with gratitude and love. And that could initiate a more hopeful, peaceful future for us all.

    About the Author

  • David E. Crosby