Opinion: Taking in Refugees is Our Moral Duty

Opinion: Taking in Refugees is Our Moral Duty

HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada on November 21, 2015.

(Halifax Forum/halifaxtheforum.org)

HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield was in Nova Scotia for the Halifax International Security Forum which began on November 20, 2015. The three-day event is a mix of on-the-record plenary sessions and smaller, off-the-record discussions covering a wide range of security and defense issues. Mr. Hetfield joined a plenary session on the responsibility to welcome.

During the forum The Chronicle Herald, a Canadian newspaper, ran an opinion piece he wrote for the forum on the international responsibility to welcome refugees.

"Over 2,000 years ago, someone challenged the Jewish sage Hillel to recite the entire Torah standing on one foot. Hillel did so, saying: 'What is hateful to you, do not do to any other person. That is the entire Torah. All the rest is commentary.' Were Hillel’s lesson universally applied today, there would be no refugees, as refugees are people who flee to escape hatred on account of who they are or what they believe. Instead, there are now 60 million refugees and displaced persons, more than at any other time since the Second World War,” Hetfield writes.

“There is a global responsibility to welcome refugees. "This responsibility is yours, mine and ours. In the Torah, God had to explain to the Hebrews 36 times why they had to welcome the stranger — “because you were once strangers too, and because I am the Lord your God (and what I say goes!)”. Likewise, the international community had to draft a Refugee Convention in 1951 to prevent repetition of one of the tragedies of the Second World War, when persecuted peoples were trapped behind the “paper walls” of visa requirements. The Refugee Convention articulates this global responsibility to welcome."

Click here to read the full piece in The Chronicle Herald.

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