Here’s the Part of the Refugee Ban that Makes Sense

This weekend, President Trump dropped the jarring news of an executive order that spelled out a ban on refugees and immigrants from certain countries.

It really isn’t news, since throughout his march to the presidency he spoke repeatedly about keeping out the bad actors and promising a temporary ban. As long as a year ago, he said this:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

The words were later softened, as he moved away from a religious designation to a geographic ban.

That inarticulate promise as turned into reality with the executive order.  In summary, it says this :

A ban on immigration for 90 days from these countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. There is also a ban on travel from these countries.

A ban on all refugees for four months

He defended the ban over the weekend. “This is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. It’s not about religion. This is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

The White House pointed out that there are 40 other Muslim-majority nations not impacted by this ban, an important distinction.

“No foreign national in a foreign land has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States,” the White House said.

They have a point.

And all of these nations have produced terrorists that have struck in Europe, the Far East and the U.S.

(Read David French’s excellent analysis here.)

It’s tough to swallow such a broad brush, but the American president serves the American people. As was evident in his inaugural speech, he intends to put American interests first.

The sensible part

I admit that this order doesn’t seem to be smooth, as demonstrated by people   stuck at airports and foreign nationals shuddering in fear that they will be deported.  But hidden in plain sight is an important caveat regarding refugees:

The halt to refugee admission does include exceptions for people claiming religious persecution, so long as their religion is a minority faith in their country.”

This is not crazy talk that our President is feeding to the machine. It’s been shared by many others on both sides and we should pay attention.

Hillary Clinton echoed this last year, when she said this, “Immigration should be allowed, especially for those who are most vulnerable, a lot of the persecuted religious minorities, including Christians, and some who have been brutalized, like the Yazidi women.”

United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron boldly expressed concern for the persecuted in his timely statement: “Every day in countries across the world, Christians are systematically discriminated against, exploited and even driven from their homes because of their faith. No believer should have to live in fear…. Now is not the time for silence. We must stand together and fight for a world where no one is persecuted because of what they believe.”

Last year, The U.S. House passed a unanimous resolution, calling ISIS acts on Christians and other minority religions, “genocide.” John Kerry joined in the international call to label ISIS acts as genocide.  The U.N. Issued a declaration of genocide on June 16.

This is not xenophobia. This is compassion first to those who need.

It’s about giving priority to those who have no home to return to because ISIS stole their homes, their livelihoods and innocence. Religious refugees should be at the front of the line, ahead of economic refugees.

U.S. Discrimination Against the Christian Refugee

I took two trips to the Middle East last year, interviewing refugees from Syria and Iraq. Over and again they asked me why the United States wasn’t helping Christians? They saw Muslims run right through the system without any interference, leapfrogging right into American arms.

Every Christian I met had the same story. Places like Canada and Australia were opening their arms, while the US closed the door to Christians.

After I got home, I realized these stories were true.

About 3 million refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 38,000 Christian refugees were admitted last year compared to about 39,000 Muslims. But when it comes to Syrian refugees, there was a definite slight against Christians.

Last Year 2016 , we admitted more than 12,000 Muslim refugees from Syria , but fewer than 100 Christian refugees were admitted. And this country has a large Christian population of several million, comprising 10 percent of the population. And thanks to Nusra, ISIS and so called “Moderate Rebels,” Christians were definitely targeted.

I interviewed dozens of families and they all said the same thing – they were targeted. Read these stories for background:  This Syrian family is looking for home and   Syrian refugee: He escaped war but he is still looking for peace

So perhaps this new administration will be able to help this process back on level ground for the persecuted Christian.

Syrian Refugees, Photo by David Rupert 2015

Syrian Refugees, Photo by David Rupert 2015

What about kindness?

If you have read me this month, you know I’ve been an unlikely participant in Shaunti Feldman’s Kindness Challenge. So this executive order seems to contradict that “spirit of kindness” that is supposed to be capturing our hearts.

But if you are targeted for what you believe and no one comes to your aid, is that not unkind? If you lose home and innocence and can never return to your home because of your faith, the deepest act of kindness is to welcome them and offer a place of refuge.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Gal 6.10

Yes. We should care about all of humanity. We should weep for souls and love deeply, without reservation. We should be concerned about Muslims, and Hindus and Atheists. But as Christians, our first call is to each other.  Why is that? The world is watching.

The Presidential Declaration is messy – like everything else. But for the persecuted masses, it should come as a welcome relief.

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Here is some background on my trips to the Middle East

Kneejerk: The Paris killings are bad for Christian refugees

ISIS interrupted their wedding plans, but not their love

Syrian Refugee: Whenever I look in my baby’s face, I think of home”

Family of five: We pray for ISIS

Nowhere to go: Refugee families escaped persecution, but cannot escape captivity

This Syrian family is looking for home

The straw that broke the camel’s back

Ancient town finds revival because of Syrian refugees

Miracles in the Middle East: Is there hope in the Chaos?

A Christian (and sane) response to the Middle East refugee crisis