The Sunday following Trump’s order, leaders of eight evangelical organizations involved with the Evangelical Immigration Table released a letter to the president and vice president, saying, “While the US has…received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches.” It was signed by representatives from Accord Network, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Korean Churches for Community Development, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, The Wesleyan Church, World Relief, and World Vision.
Bethany Christian Services works in eight states to assist refugee families with services like language training and transportation, and also places unaccompanied children in foster homes. “Our hope is that this pending ban is indeed only temporary so that the millions of refugees currently fighting for their lives can once again rely on the caring and compassion that has made the United States the greatest country in the world,” said Bill Blacquiere, its president and CEO, earlier in the week.
Despite evangelical organizations’ involvement in resettling refugees, not all Christians remain enthusiastic about the cause, and some share Trump’s national security concerns. Last January, LifeWay Research found that Protestant congregations in America were twice as likely to fear refugees as help them, though senior pastors overwhelmingly believed that “Christians have a responsibility to care sacrificially for refugees and foreigners.” Another survey reported that the number of committed Christians praying for and taking action on behalf of refugees dropped in 2016.
When the refugee program resumes, the Trump administration plans to prioritize refugees who have undergone persecution as a religious minority. For the Muslim-majority countries where most refugees comes from, this would benefit Christians (and other minority faiths, like Yazidis) and penalize Muslims.
Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network:
Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.
The president of Christian Freedom International celebrated the decision. “The Trump administration has given hope to persecuted Christians that their cases will finally be considered,” said Jim Jacobson.
CT previously reported how limits on Muslim immigration can backfire on Christians.
The US refugee program brings many Christians to America each year, according to data from the US State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. Since 2003, the US has resettled nearly 81,000 Christians from the seven Muslim-majority countries on Trump’s list—including more than 600 Christians so far in 2017, and more than 4,700 in 2016.
In the past decade, 1 in 4 refugees resettled from Trump’s listed Muslim nations were Christians. Iraq and Iran had the highest share of religious minorities resettled, with about 95 percent of Iranian refugees being Christians or other non-Muslim faiths.