US evangelicals issue powerful pro-refugee call

People participate in a pro-refugee protest organised by Americans for Refugees and Immigrants in Seattle, Washington on November 28, 2015.Reuters

US evangelical leaders have released a statement on refugees saying the country "cannot allow voices of fear to dominate" its policy regarding them.

The statement is a powerful counter-blast to growing public fears of Islamist terrorism following the San Bernardino shootings and widely-publicised calls by Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the US. 

More than half of the governors of US states have said they oppose the settlement of Syrian refugees in their jurisdictions.

The statement came out of a meeting of more than 100 leaders convened at Wheaton College by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, which is based there, and the college's Humanitarian Disaster Institute.

Wheaton is itself under fire for its suspension of one of its staff, Larycia Hawkins, who said publicly that Christians and Muslims "worship the same God".

The statement refers to the 60 million global refugees as a a "humanitarian crisis of unprecedented size".

"Moments like these are when Christians cannot remain silent and still. In light of this crisis, we commit ourselves and our churches to actively care for and minister to global refugees with mercy and compassion, both here and abroad, based on God's compelling concern for all people in need and especially refugees."

It says that refugees "possess the image of God" and that Christians "must care sacrificially for the refugee, the foreigner, and the stranger".

"We will not be motivated by fear but by love for God and others," it says, adding that "Christians are called to grace-filled and humble speech about this issue."

The statement deals explicitly with security concerns over the admission of large numbers of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, saying "we also observe that choosing to come to North America as refugees would be among the least effective ways for those who intend to do us harm". Those fleeing violence, it says, "are not our enemies; they are victims".

The statement is significant because it undercuts the anti-Muslim narrative which is prevalent in discourse about the refugee crisis among US evangelicals and is a theme of some candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

It is signed by leading figures in the evangelical world, including Frank Page, CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Rich Stearns, President of World Vision, and Alton Garrison, Assistant General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.