Minister discusses the role of faith in refugee crisis

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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – Dr. Robert White, an Associate Professor of Religion at Athens State University and a practicing Baptist Minister, stopped by WHNT News 19 this week to talk about global tension between religions.

Dr. White explains that you have to be careful about generalizing Islam, even in the wake of the Paris attacks, “It would be like saying all Christians are the same or all Baptists are the same. It’s just not true. there’s a lot of diversity that exists in any one faith.”

There are more than two billion Muslims in the world currently and around two billion Christians.  White says the vast majority of Muslims have nothing to do with the kind of reading of Islam that has led to ISIS, “The majority of Muslims do not follow that line of thought. The line of thought that ISIS not only holds but they also try to impose. Most Muslims do not.”

“It’s an extremist position,” says Dr. White.  “It’s a fanatical position, it’s extremist, and most Muslims do not hold that position.  It grows out of a fundamentalism, it is really something that grew out of the 20th century in the Christian perspective as a response to the whole rise of modernity, but I would say in many ways, that’s where it starts.  It starts at a very, very literal understanding, and leads to that kind of extremist position.”

As far as refugees from Syria, Dr. White says, “If you’re an elected politician, you have to be concerned for the safety of the people you’re serving right? Again, on the military side there are concerns, but I can tell you for people of faith, especially for Jews and Christians, I’m not sure we have a lot of wiggle room on this.  I think hospitality is at the heart of what we’re taught, right?  We’re to show hospitality, especially to the refugees.  And it’s sort of like I told you earlier, I was in Turkey and Greece earlier this year and I saw some of the refugees coming across in Kos, Greece, and It’s easy to forget that these are real people and they have real lives, and they’re struggling.  They’re struggling to stay alive, and is there a risk?  Sure.  I’m sure there is.  But on the whole, I don’t think so.  On the whole I think these are people who are trying to move away from the terror that they’ve experienced in Syria, and they’re trying to find a place to live where they can raise their families.  And I don’t know, what does hospitality require.  At least from a, as a person of faith, I think that has to be part of the discussion.”

View our entire conversation with Dr. Robert White here in three parts:

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