In early January, President Trump announced an executive order meant to keep illegal and criminal refugees out of the country, much to the celebration of most conservatives. The Christian community, however, was uncharacteristically the first to break ranks on the issue.
Many Christian leaders denounced the order, saying that it would focus attention on Christian refugees who had been granted refuge or asylum in the U.S. based primarily upon their country of origin being attacked by extremist jihadi groups.
Trump responded to the criticisms by publicly rededicating his administration to protecting Christian refugees; however, some religious leaders have yet to trust this new direction.
What exactly is Trump’s policy on Christian refugees, and how will it affect believers around the world who are being physically attacked and driven from their homes?
The Overlap of Religion and Politics
Most of the problems that caused the original criticism of the Trump administration had to do with the countries that were listed on the original refugee ban, Syria among them.
Although Syria is known as a Muslim state, it actually has quite a substantial Christian population. Making up just over 11% of the citizenry, they are a significant minority in Syria. Unfortunately, they are one of the top targets for Islamic State terrorists and their sympathizers.
Initially, the Trump administration seemed to ignore the cries of religious groups bringing information of this persecution, seeming to rely on their political assessments of the area rather than a more holistic and defined view of what was actually happening in the country.
The activism of many Christian groups looking out for their Syrian brothers and sisters no doubt saved many lives as they eventually broke through to the executive branch, forcing them to take another look at their blanket policy.
While it is very important to maintain the boundaries of the country against enemies, it is also important to ensure that no friend goes unprotected while behind enemy lines.
Trump’s First Executive Order
To the president’s credit, Trump responded with verve to the initial criticisms of the blanket Muslim ban that seemed to disregard Christian refugees from those countries. He almost immediately signed an executive order, known as Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist
Entry into the United States, which codified a more precision oriented stance on religious minorities in countries that were suspected of producing terrorist activity.
However, the admittedly quick trigger reaction did not offer any information about the agencies that would be trusted to vet refugees. A Pew Research study found that over 12,000 of the refugees from Syria that were granted asylum in the previous year were Muslim, not Christian.
The numbers don’t lie: Christians only comprise 11% of the total population of Syria. (Pew Research places this number at 5.2%; the 11% number comes from the CIA World Factbook.) Less than 1% of the Syrians granted refugee status in the US have been Christian. If the Trump administration is going to find the needles in the haystack in Syria and in other Muslim majority countries, there must be better oversight of the vetting process.
Fixing the Process
More recently, Trump signed another executive order that actually froze all Syrian refugee applications, at the same time giving a Christian Broadcasting Network interview in which he was widely quoted as saying that Christians had been “horribly treated” by the process.
At this point, there is a great deal of confusion as to where the Trump administration stands. The process of finding the minority Christians in Muslim majority countries does not seem to be improving. Although we must give the political process time, there are certainly reasons to invoke priority within the administration. Unlike tax policies or decisions about land zoning, every day that the U.S. stands in an uncommitted position about Christian refugees is a day that more good people are tortured and killed.
Regardless of the day-to-day rigors of state politics, the truth is that there are Christians in trouble around the world that are in need of help and prayer. Every true Christian is called to do what he or she can at this very important time in our religious history.
~ 1776 Christian