The danger of being ruled by fear is one that is all too present in the modern age. In recent months and years, several countries around the world have been subjected to brutal attacks by terrorist organizations claiming to be acting in the name of Islam. These hideous attacks left pain and loss in their wake but, just as importantly, created fear in peoples' minds and hearts that they too could become victims of terrorism.
Many have allowed their fear of terrorism to so dominate and cloud their thinking that they regard all Muslims as potential terrorists. Sadly, fear, combined with ignorance and prejudice are making many people turn their backs on innocent Muslim refugees seeking a safe haven in Western countries.
Since the Syrian Civil War began, 320,000 people have been killed, 12,000 of whom were children. One and a half million people have been wounded or permanently disabled, and the war is only growing even more deadly.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the chairman of the United Nations panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria had this to say on the situation: "With each passing day there are fewer safe places in Syria, everyday decisions - whether to visit a neighbor, to go out to buy bread - have become, potentially, decisions about life and death."
Americans who take pride in their country's history of welcoming refugees have to put aside this fear to help those who are in desperate need of assistance. Canada's Prime Minister has welcomed Syrian refugees into his country in person.
The Pope has asked every parish to accept some refugees. In America, some states such as California have taken in refugees. Here in Massachusetts, we have not. Alarmingly, we hear the strident voices of those who wish to bar all Muslims from entering the US - essentially holding the entire Muslim world responsible for the actions of a small minority of evil terrorists who have no legitimacy in the Islamic world.
The attitude of rejection stems from fear and a desire to exploit fear, which is something all decent-minded citizens cannot allow. We must show compassion for those who need our help, and not act out of fear, ignorance and a misplaced sense of self-preservation.
It is understandable to want to protect one's home and family from the conflict, but we must rally together as humans, understanding that we have a responsibility to help the world's most vulnerable to survive and rebuild their lives. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees who want nothing more than a safe place for themselves and their families. They travel under incredibly dangerous circumstances to avoid having to live in places ravaged by war and terror. Their suffering is something that we should all understand. The countries neighboring Syria such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq have already taken in millions of people and can take no more.
The problems in Syria are a test of our common humanity. We are faced with a choice, and it is a choice that I believe has only one correct answer. As Edmund Burke once said "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." We must make the choice that is right, not the one that is easy. We must take in these people and help them get back on their feet, to act with compassion and care as we would hope to be treated if the roles were reversed. We must act, not in the name of a nation or a political party but in the name of humanity as a whole. When future generations look back on this period in history, let it not show that we allowed fear to rule us, instead let it show we acted with courage and compassion.