Refugee ban: the power of perception

By January 31, 2017

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.pxy_trump

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?

cta7f7bwt5o-serge-esteveThis 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.

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA).

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

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.

zdcq3ikly6g-thomNo 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.


  • Interesting and excellent article. I am praying about this and it helps to get clarification.

  • Ricky Sikes says:

    I agree, and have been concerned about how fast our president has been trying to make changes, needful changes, but too fast perhaps. I have been praying that he would modify his ‘edict’ before he causes real harm here and abroad. Our brothers and sisters were not helped by our last president’s only wanting Muslims refugees, now we are over correcting which still won’t help the persecuted. Somehow, he has to hear this and make adjustments! Perhaps Open Doors and other missions can make an appeal to Trump and God will open his eyes to the harm he is causing?

  • Well thought out articles, however the religious persecution exemption wasn’t just for Christians. Secondly, Christian refugees deserve to come to the front since many died in mostly muslim refugee camps! They have been the persecuted of the persecuted! Thirdly, the percentage of military aged men to women is revealing that the least are not necessarily the ones getting through! Discretion, and wisdom, and most certainly prayer is needed! God tell
    Israel in Deut 23:3 about wise immigration, not those who hate youto let where he forbids the Ammonites
    In God’s congregation because they hate you!

  • Grant Hodges says:

    I disagree. It is one thing to take a refugee into your home and neighborhood. It is another thing to place hundreds of refugees in someone else’s neighborhood with the understanding that a certain percentage of them may be terrorists, and then tell those people to deal with it. We do not enforce our charity onto the backs of others. And we have no right to stipulate that others should have their lives threatened so that we can feel charitable. Muslims have attempted to kill seven of my friends. Seven Americans. No politician or religious leader has the right to expose Americans to death or bodily injury.

    The order to prefer Christians in the refugee population after the ban is lifted is entirely correct. The writer ignores the fact . . . the fact that President Obama excluded the Christians for refuge despite the fact that they were far more endangered than Muslims. Along with the Yazidis they have been slaughtered . . . and they were ignored. Making up for this purposeful wickedness by Obama is a right use of foreign policy and will be noted by surrounding nations.

    The diplomatic principle of reciprocity is ignored in this article. In the relations of nations, it is crucial to insist that what is fair for one country is fair for another. Six of the seven countries (save Somalia) refuse entry to Israeli passport. This is racism. It is anti-Semitism that all civilized nations abhor. It is also cursed by God in Genesis 12:1-3. Muslim nations need to learn that despite their imperialism and their belief in their right to conquer all others, they will be treated as they treat others. This is a national principle of diplomacy, and when reciprocity is ignored . . .

    . . . missionaries become a target on the foreign field.

    When reciprocity is not insisted upon in dealings with other nations . . . missionaries become a target on the foreign field. Think it through.

    You may practice charity. But nations must practice reciprocity.

  • Thank you for this. God bless your work. We all pray

  • Jim Miller says:

    There is something interesting here. Does everybody understand that Obama was the one who restricted immigration from the seven countries listed in the first place? What I find curious is I don’t remember people getting all bent out of shape when Obama placed the ban on those 7 countries. It seems to me that this uproar was started by those who simply want to oppose President Trump and not give him the respect he should have for protecting America from terrorists. He’s simply doing what the majority of the people elected him to do.
    My question: would we be having these discussions if the Trump detractors wouldn’t have started it in the first place?

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