S2S Campaign Director at press conference on the Syrian crisis

On Press Release

Press release | September 16, 2015

Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign Director Catherine Orsborn speaks at press conference in front of White House on Syrian crisis


As so many others today have eloquently described, the Syrian refugee crisis is among the worst humanitarian crises of our era. It is shameful to think that we might, in this critical moment, act out of fear instead of compassion. Out of prejudice instead of devotion to our nation’s highest ideals.

For the too long our leaders have been of two, divided minds about refugees of Syria. They see them as victims of both ISIS and President Assad, feeling violence and fear; and yet they also call them a national security threat, terrorists, and a danger to America. They see them as human beings seeking refuge, freedom and a place to flourish, and yet they call them a drain on our economy and somebody else’s problem. Syrians- of Muslim, Christian, and other religious identities alike- are in search of peace and security. They know better than anyone the impact of division and violence.

It is time that American leaders, and indeed all Americans, speak out with one voice and seek one common mission. We have to come together, across national borders and ethnicities, religions and communities, to address this crisis that will continue to have ripple effects across the globe. We must provide safe harbor for Syrians seeking refuge in America. We must lead by example and encourage nations across the world to join us in bearing this burden. And we must work with our allies to address the root causes of this violence and displacement inside of Syria.

The Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups that make up Shoulder to Shoulder stand with the Syrian refugees today because we know that it is only America’s openness to all those seeking refuge, regardless of faith, that has enabled our communities to flourish here. From the Puritans to the Quakers, Irish and Italian Catholic communities to survivors of the Holocaust, America was built on the promise to put prejudice aside and welcome the homeless, the stateless, the displaced, with open arms. We cannot close our door to the Syrian community now.

Anti-Muslim prejudice has been building in the U.S. over the last decade and a half, and it has poisoned our political system. Politicians and the media ignore the reality on the ground in Syria. They ignore the background checks and hurdles that refugees go through to arrive on our shores. And they ignore the moral calling of each of our faith traditions to welcome the stranger and to recognize God in those who suffer around us.

Instead they use fear-mongering rhetoric and thinly veiled hate to mobilize Americans against the Syrian community. They try to convince us that refugees are a threat to our security, our way of life. But we know that our national security, the security of us all, and the moral conscience of our nation, depend on the compassion we show to those in need and our willingness to provide safe harbor to those on our shores.

We are co-dependent on one another in this country and the responsibility to stand up for the other resonates just as much in this crisis as it did 70 years ago, 100 hundred years ago and since our nation’s founding. As a coalition of a number of different religious communities here in the US, we join our voices with the others here today in calling for immediate action to address the humanitarian need, and the root cause of it, stemming from the Syrian crisis.

Click here for news coverage of this press conference.


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