Lehigh Valley

Fear over Muslim faith trumps topic of helping refugees at meeting in Allentown

Fear over Muslim faith trumps topic of helping refugees

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Syria is a divided country that has been drenched in turmoil. Folks have been fleeing for years and are trying to start new lives as refugees.

That's why a group in Allentown decided to hold a meeting to get information out about sponsoring refugees who come to our area, but things didn't go as planned.

Lutheran Children and Family Service welcomed people of all faiths and those without religious affiliations for a meeting designed to train people on how to help refugees, specifically ones from Syria.

Larry Pickens, part of The Lehigh Conference of Churches, said he feels people should understand one another and help those in need.

"It's important, as Christians and other faiths, to welcome those who are coming," he said.

But the informational meeting took a sudden turn, which shocked many.

"I thought we were all coming here to find out how we can help, and I was surprised about that," Bryan Page said.

Folks spoke out passionately, questioning if the government will keep them safe when allowing refugees into the country. Fear over the Muslim faith trumped the topic of helping refugees.

"My concerns are security and also, my concerns are the burdens of the taxpayer in America when these refugees qualify under the refugee status for subsidies, such as housing and welfare," Maureen Gyory said.

The case manager for refugee resettlement for the Lutheran Children and Family Service, Abbas Khalaf, said he's not concerned at all about security because there are strict guidelines and background checks set by the government on refugees.

"I don't see any problem," he said. "I look at it in a positive way."

Page attended the meeting to learn more about adopting a Syrian family.

"We have this house. "We have four kids who are long gone now from our house, and instead of downsizing why not invite a family that's in need," he explained.

Page said people who have left Syria deserve a second chance.

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