Archbishop of Indianapolis told not to house family of Syrian refugees

Mike Pence was among 30 governors who asked the Obama administration to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees.Reuters

A Catholic Archbishop has been asked not to house a family of Syrian refugees in his diocese by the governor of his state.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis met with Governor Mike Pence yesterday regarding a family of four Syrians who are due to arrive in the state later this month. The diocese on Monday had said it had received offers of private assistance to fund the move, which would make up for government aid which has been blocked by Pence.

He was among 30 governors who asked the Obama administration to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the US over security concerns in the wake of the Paris attacks on November 13.

On Monday, spokesperson for the archdiocese Greg Otolski said the Church was determined to help the family. "We think that when everybody sits down and reviews the case and looks at the facts, people will see that this is a family that had to flee their home and have been the victims of serious violence around them," he said.

"And this is what we do, as the Catholic Church in Indiana, with refugees from anywhere."

Following his meeting with Tobin on Wednesday, Pence told the Associated Press: "We had a good conversation today with Catholic charities and I'm hopeful that they'll respect our wishes". He said he could not justify making an exception for the family.

Archbishop Tobin, however, has not indicated clearly whether he will take Pence's request into account. "My first consideration is not to objectify the family and make them an object of notoriety," he told AP. "They are human beings... Our desire is to respect human beings."

Obama has vowed to veto the US House of Representative's plan to stop Syrian refugees from settling in the US, and many Christians have expressed concern that fear-mongering is overtaking a compassionate response to the crisis.

The chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop released a statement on November 17 saying he was "concerned" by calls to stop welcoming those fleeing persecution in the Middle East.

"These refugees are fleeing terror themselves – violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organisation," Bishop Eusebio Elizondo said.

"Moreover, refugees to this country must pass security checks and multiple interviews before entering the United States – more than any arrival to the United States. It can take up to two years for a refugee to pass through the whole vetting process. We can look at strengthening the already stringent screening program, but we should continue to welcome those in desperate need."

The bishop warned that the Paris attacks were being used to "scapegoat all refugees".

"I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes. Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive," he added.

"As a great nation, the United States must show leadership during this crisis and bring nations together to protect those in danger and bring an end to the conflicts in the Middle East."