Syrian Refugees Test Our Faith

Like almost everyone I have talked to, I am embarrassed that the richest country in the world has now graciously decided to allow a paltry 10,000 of the world's most desperate refugees onto our shores. To put this in perspective, Germany--a country smaller than California and one quarter our size in population--will be welcoming 500,000 of them. A 50:1 discrepancy? Really, 50:1?

Embarrassed? No, humiliated is more like it.

Well, if the U.S. is put to shame by the officialdom in Washington, we don't have to settle for that. Know how many houses of worship there are in the U.S.? I'll tell you: 350,000. That's a third of a million groups of people who worship an eternal source of love and justice whose welcome began with Creation and has been articulated and reinforced by the great prophets, not to mention a few billion individuals in their daily lives.

So here's a modest proposal: let every house of worship in America get in touch with the powers-that-be in D.C. to insist on opening the nation's portals wide enough for each house of worship to adopt one family fleeing the horrors of Syria. One major refugee-relocation organization, Church World Service, offers a way to get started on this.

And once the way has been cleared, each house of worship can get back in touch with Church World Service or some other refugee relocation group to offer a welcome to one of the families they are working with.

There is a massive irony in the fact that hospitality was practically invented in the Middle East. There is almost no place on earth where a people's tradition of welcoming the stranger with food, drink, and shelter has been more central to their values, to their integrity. At this moment now when internecine horror is temporarily massacring both those values and the people who embrace them, the least we can do is to demonstrate what our religious traditions look like when practiced in their truest, most loving forms.

Enough already of looking at a photo of a dead child washed ashore and just clucking our tongues in transient feelings of sorrow about "those" poor people's insufferable situation. They may be in dire straits, but so are we. The very validity of our daring to describe ourselves as people of faith is at risk. The time to validate our claim to be members of our religious faiths is right now. The tools to begin alleviating that suffering are right here. The moment of truth is upon us.