Some evangelical groups criticized executive order that privileges Christian refugees over Muslim ones, despite majority of followers voting for president
Evangelical leaders are asking Donald Trump to reconsider his refugee ban, joining other Christian groups in arguing that welcoming refugees is an essential part of their faith.
The leader of a prominent US evangelical aid group said Trump’s move to give Christian refugees priority was wrong.
“We oppose any religions test that would place the suffering of one people over another,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Other Christian leaders also came out strongly against the notion that the US should prioritize Christian refugees, which Trump said in an interview he wanted to do and which the executive order he signed on Friday couched in terms of preferring religious minorities from the seven Muslim-majority countries concerned.
“We need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home and country,” Bishop Joe S Vásquez of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement on Friday.
Church World Service, an aid group organized by mainstream Protestant churches, “denounces the prioritization of Christian refugees over Muslim refugees”, said Sarah Krause, a senior director at the group’s refugee program.
“We are called on by our faith to love the stranger,” she added. “To do anything other than that is in violation of our Christian principles.”
Even the chief executive of Open Doors USA, a branch of an international organization that advocates for persecuted Christians, was critical.
“President Trump rightly recognizes the incredible rise in persecution of Christians,” David Curry said in a statement. “However, cherry-picking one religion over another only exacerbates the already severe worldwide trend of religious persecution.
“We encourage a need-based approach that treats all faiths equally and works toward the comprehensive strengthening of religious freedom around the world.”
More than other faith groups, white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Eight in 10 cast a vote for him, according to exit poll data – support the president has touted proudly.
Last week, evangelicals praised Trump for reinstating the global gag rule that prevents US-funded aid groups from providing information about abortion. But some groups said the executive order halting refugee resettlement was unnecessary.
“The US refugee resettlement program’s screening process is already extremely thorough,” a group of evangelical leaders wrote in a letter on Sunday to Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence. “We believe that our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure.”
The leaders asked the president to resume the US refugee resettlement program “immediately”.
The letter was signed by the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches; the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; the nation’s largest Latino evangelical group; and the leaders of several major evangelical refugee and aid groups.
“It would be a mistake [to think that] because an evangelical voted for Donald Trump, they will support all of his positions,” Arbeiter said.
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