United States (MNN) — There’s a lot of confusion and emotion surrounding President Trump’s executive order on refugees signed Friday. The reaction to the refugee ban proves that while the facts are absolutely vital to the discussion, perception, too, has power. A loud response was heard not just within the United States and refugee populations, but from national leaders in Canada and across Europe. The loudest voices are those who condemn the order.
Details of refugee ban
It’s important to look at what exactly the order entails. There are a lot of “if, then” statements that define who is allowed into the United States and who isn’t.
The decision denies entry to all refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees for an unknown amount of time. In addition, it restricts immigration from seven countries: Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan. This includes green-card holders from these countries who were outside the United States when the ban was put in place. A provision was made that on some occasions, entry would be allowed on a case-by-case basis.
But at the center of the discussion is this question: Is the order basing admittance of refugees on their religion?
This question comes from the fact that the seven countries listed are Muslim majority. These countries are known to produce terrorists, and in addition are areas where religious persecution is widespread.
However, it is not an exhaustive list of countries where persecution is high, or where extremism thrives. Trump’s previous statements on banning Muslims does nothing to dispel this perception.
David Curry of Open Doors USA says if other countries believe the order to be religious discrimination, it could hurt the fight against religious persecution internationally.
“It could be a bad thing if it’s perceived or is in fact a religious test to get into America. That’s because that’s the sort of thing we are arguing within Pakistan and Afghanistan and all of these areas where there is extremism and religious persecution of Christians.”
Open Doors USA stands by the persecuted Church worldwide by advocating for religious freedom — that is, freedom for all religions. They are encouraged by the Trump administration’s concern about the growing persecution against Christians around the world. But, Curry says, there is room for clarification as far as this order is concerned.
“What they’ve done on Friday is try to connect that issue to another critical issue, which is, how do we keep our country safe and control borders? And they did so by putting out a presidential order that limited entrance [from] some Muslim countries for a period of time,” he says.
However, many have criticized that the order gives Christian refugees priority once the ban is lifted.
Curry said in a statement Saturday that while it’s important to recognize and help persecuted religious minorities from all over the world, “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.”
He also urges the administration to equally consider the danger and persecution that comes from major trading partners like India and Saudi Arabia.
Curry doubts the likelihood of that happening. So, he says, “Let’s take a measured approach, go through the State Department policies, try to implement strategies with these countries that will have long-term positive effects for persecuted Christians.”
The level of passion and emotion that surrounds this discussion not only raises fears on both sides; it has the potential to harm relationships, as we saw many times during the presidential race.
No matter what side of the discussion we find ourselves, Curry says Christians must remember who we represent when we engage in these conversations.
He says, “Let’s have the aroma of Jesus in these political conversations. That we’re kind, that we’re polite. That we’re direct and defend our positions as we think they’re best defended.”
Prayer is also a big part of this. First of all, pray for wisdom and understanding, not only in your own life, but for world leaders. Ask God for protection against terrorism — for your nation, and for refugees. Ask God to spread His Gospel of truth despite the confusion and arguments.
Finally, Curry says, be aware that this perception has the potential to do at least one other thing. Because many of the countries listed high for religious persecution view Christianity as a western religion, this executive order could cause them to retaliate on Christian communities in their own countries. Ask God to strengthen these believers.