When Fear Reigns, Extremists Win

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Photo courtesy World Relief Seattle
Photo courtesy World Relief Seattle

Recent rhetoric across the country hyping fear and scapegoating Syrian refugees takes our country back to earlier, dangerous moments in our country’s history. The vote in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday was a disturbing reminder of how quickly our nation reverts to a fear-based mentality.

The result, sadly, is only more fear: an overhyped fear for the majority and now a very real fear of persecution for our Muslim and Arab neighbors. And fear fuels extremism.

I find it particularly disturbing that much of the fear comes from those who would consider America a “Christian nation,” but who refuse to acknowledge Jesus’ life experience as a refugee or Biblical exhortations to welcome the stranger.

How do we counter this fear?

Stories of hope help. I’m reminded of my late friend Cal Uomoto, the son of Japanese parents interned by the U.S. government, who dedicated his life to welcoming immigrants and refugees. Many of us know individuals like Cal who live to share hope with others.

Building inclusive community helps. I encourage residents of Seattle to take extra steps to welcome their immigrant and refugee neighbors and learn their stories. There are numerous organizations like the International Rescue Committee, World Relief, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, OneAmerica, Casa Latina, Refugee Women’s Alliance and many, many more that could use support and volunteers.

And leadership helps. I’m thankful for statements made by our Governor Jay Inslee (on NPR’s Morning Edition and in the New York Times) and by the Seattle Times Editorial Board denouncing this fear. I’m also grateful that Seattle’s two representatives in the House voted against yesterday’s xenophobic legislation. But other civic, faith and community leaders must speak out as well.

Seattle has proven so far to be resistant to this national epidemic of fear, but we are not immune.