President Trump is expected to place an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees entering the U.S. along with a four-month ban on immigrants from a handful of other Muslim-majority nations. Several evangelical organizations whose mission is to obey the biblical command to help those in need—particularly refugees—are pushing back.
“The question for the American Christian is: Will we speak out on behalf of those who are running from the very terror that we are rightly trying to put an end to?” Scott Arbeiter, the president of World Relief, asks in a statement. Arbeiter points to a “1 in 3 billion chance” that trouble would come from admitting refugees to the U.S. “Would we say, ‘I am not willing to give up even the smallest fraction of my safety to welcome people who have been vetted very carefully, who have been proven as a remarkable population of people. Will I not make room for them?’” Arbeiter asks.
Another organization making public statements to encourage law-makers to reconsider their stance on refugees is We Welcome Refugees, an alliance of evangelical organizations like Willow Creek Community Church, World Vision and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). We Welcome Refugees sought 10,000 signatures on their online petition to “urge all our elected officials to work with welcoming communities to assist refugees wherever they are in tangible and practical ways.” So far, the group has gathered over 13,000 signatures.
The pushback comes after President Trump has made it a point to crack down on immigration in his first week in office. In an interview with ABC, the President summarized his policy changes this way: “It’s going to be very hard to come in… Right now, it’s very easy to come in.” This stance is in contrast to the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 110,000 refugees in 2017. The U.S. was on track to reach this goal, however the new policies implemented by Trump will whittle that number to about 50,000, according to estimates.
Besides putting a very real logistics-impediment on the work of several U.S.-based non-profit organizations, Vickie Reddy, the executive producer of the Justice Conference, says the halt sends a “message of hate.” Leith Anderson, the president of NAE, calls on the church to make the most of an opportunity to help and bless those most vulnerable in the world right now. “Most refugees from the Middle East are women and children who have suffered the assaults of ISIS terrorists and civil war,” Anderson says, and therefore we shouldn’t fear helping them.
Hopeful immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations are targeted in the ban: Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. In response to the new policy, several evangelicals see the only way to move forward with their mission is to voice their concern. As they see it, if we are to take seriously the command of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves and the whole message of Scripture to assist the foreigner, we would do well to push back against the immigration reforms.
Arbeiter sees it as a “risk” to go along with the new policy and forgo the incredible opportunity the church has to reach people seeking refuge from closed-access nations. “We are closing the doors to the very people that we say we want to share the gospel with.”