My heart hurts for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad, and my heart hurts for the millions of Syrian innocents who are hated for their efforts to protect their families against the evils of the same terrorist organizations.
Today, though, my heart hurts anew for the United States. Since the attacks, we have made a submission to ISIS, weakening the armor that is our principles of freedom and liberty. A majority of states have announced their rejection of all future Syrian refugees, and I’m ashamed that Idaho might be among them. In a country already behind in humanitarian efforts to resettle one of the most persecuted groups of people on Earth, we’re taking massive steps backward.
Over 200,000 people have died in Syria over the last 4.5 years. That’s the equivalent of a Paris attack every single day. Nine million Syrian men, women and children have been forced to flee their country with their families just to protect their lives. Remember that each of these numbers is a real person with family, goals, history and — hopefully — a future. These are not terrorists: They are victims of terrorism, displaying extraordinary courage in the face of it. The combined forces of ISIS, al-Qaida, the Taliban and Boko Haram constitute less than .003 percent of the total Muslim population.
The threat that comes from evil jihadists is real. But the United States has the most thorough vetting process for refugees in the world. The current process for refugee resettlement in the U.S. takes 18-24 months or more. This is the least likely route a potential terrorist would take, as they must pass independent inspections by the FBI, CIA, State Department, DHS, UN, foreign embassies, etc., as well as in-person interviews and medical exams. Of the 784,000-plus refugees integrated since 9/11, exactly zero have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. Zero.
This summer I received a full scholarship to study Arabic in Rabat, Morocco, with 99 percent of the country practicing Muslims. I lived with a host family for two months: devout Muslims who pray often, love the Quran and go to mosque daily. They welcomed me and my American culture into their home with the highest level of kindness and hospitality. It saddens me to see people stigmatize a full quarter of our world’s population, as many people who I love and esteem are Muslim, and their faith has done nothing but make them better people. Similarly, from my work at the Refugee Center in Twin Falls, I know how grateful incoming refugees are to be new Idahoans, and the benefit to our society and economy they become.
The United States was founded by religious refugees, but we’ve turned our backs on that legacy in favor of ignoring a critical global problem — leaving more toddlers to drown, more tears to be shed, and more satisfaction to be felt by the terrorist cells who want America to fall.
As a Christian, I’m uplifted when I see the compassionate actions of those in my community and across Idaho who represent charity and love. Christ was a Middle Eastern refugee, and in Matthew we learn that by taking in strangers it is as if we had done it unto him. In a situation where the least of these our brethren are suffering, it’s my hope that the U.S. and its people will continue to stand for safety, family and freedom — to love one another in solidarity with our brothers and sisters worldwide. Terrorism cannot be conquered by fear.
“We have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Theresa
Amanda Solomon is a lifelong Idaho resident and a current student at Brigham Young University studying international relations.