On January 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting immigration from certain Muslim countries.
Contrary to the mainstream media’s narrative, these countries had previously been singled out by the Obama Administration as terrorist risks. The text of Trump’s executive order provides for exceptions for those who are “religious minorities” in their country of origin. Trump said in an interview that he wants to make persecuted Christians a priority; he wants to help them.
Many Christian conservatives I follow on Twitter were quick to cry out, “What about the Muslims?!”
The New York Times jumped at the chance to tell the world that Christian leaders have denounced the president’s plan to favor Christian immigrants.
The reaction of American Christians betrays Middle Eastern Christians; they are exhibiting a simplistic understanding of loving your neighbor, and a disregard of one of God’s commands.
In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul encouraged the Christian brethren to bear one another’s burdens; his instructions are for those in the family of God. He instructed them thus:
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
He revisited this command in 1 Timothy 5:8:
“If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Scripture enjoins us to take care of not only our personal families, but the family of Christ; other Christians – those called brethren.
American Christians of all denominations are right to “love the sojourner” (Deuteronomy 10:19), but I would like to remind my fellow believers that Scripture tells us to especially care for those “who are of the household of faith.” As Christians, we don’t get to cherry-pick verses to push a particular agenda. Our duty is to God first – taking his full counsel and staying away from simplistic attitudes that manipulate religion to fit a particular ideology.
In less than a decade (2004–2011), the Chaldo-Assyrian Christian population in Iraq was reduced from more than a million to approximately 150,000 people. Michael Brendan Dougherty elaborated on that in his gut-wrenching article at The Week. If you have not already done so, I highly encourage you to spend some time ruminating on that piece.
Dougherty quoted a Christian shopkeeper:
“Tell the EU and the Americans that we sent you Saint Paul 2,000 years ago to take you from the darkness, and you sent us terrorists to kill us.”
In God’s providence, we now have a leader in Trump, who seems to want to do something decent and good for persecuted Christians in the Arab world.
But instead of celebrating and encouraging a better-executed plan of action, their brothers and sisters in America shouted across social media, “What about the Muslims?!”
There was a time when America showed itself fully capable of protecting its Christian brethren. The Barbary pirates used to capture Christians and sell them in the Ottoman slave market. America paid ransoms and used the new U.S. Navy to rescue the Christians. Elliott Abrams, in his Weekly Standard piece “Why Do We Not Save Christians?” recounted this early 19th-century conflict in the Barbary Wars.
Today, American Christians have lost that sense of duty toward their brethren in other parts of the world. This is due partly to the comfortable individualistic culture in our country, and partly it is a subtle – possibly even unconscious – belief that it is more righteous to help those who are unlike us.
Today, Christians are under special threat in the Middle East. The possibility that Christian refugees will be able to go home and reconstruct their communities and lead normal lives is far lower than are the chances for their Muslim neighbors. The level of continuing discrimination and physical threat against them is high, and in Syria and Iraq they will always constitute tiny and powerless groups. The argument for reaching out to rescue Christian refugees and those from other threatened religious minorities is clear: They are worse off than their Muslim neighbors. They face special circumstances, of which we should in all fairness take account. To turn away from them because they are Christian and we do not wish to be accused of favoritism toward Christians is a shameful position for Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist – to take.
Christians have a special duty to care for and protect their brethren. Any opposing opinion is wrong, misguided and contrary to Scripture.
Furthermore, the responsibilities of private individuals and governments differ. Understood correctly, the concept of turning the other cheek is a good practice for Christian citizens, but it is a very poor and highly dangerous foreign policy. The American project began with Christian minorities’ coming to this new world; the precedence of our country’s history is one showing that previous generations of Christians in this land knew they had an obligation to protect those in the family of faith.
There’s a sickness in the Arab world. A fury so wild and deep no one knows how to stop it. It is a desire to destroy and subject everything which is other; everything that is not itself. More often than not, it is the minorities – especially Christians – who are the other on which this fury is unleashed. Middle Eastern Christians feel betrayed by our Christian brethren here, and are persecuted and killed there. Is there no place on earth for us to live in peace and dignity? Will no one look with pity on us? Must we be continually cast aside for expediency, greed or political correctness? People who reject their own will not survive.
In the end, it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. There are good, conscientious and robust answers to the quagmire in which we find ourselves.
We must also remember that there are Christians and other minorities who want to stay in their ancestral homeland. I’m in full agreement with The Philos Project Executive Director Robert Nicholson, who said, “Any executive or legislative measure designed to get minorities out of region should be paired with a companion measure to help people stay.”
Ideally, there should be an ongoing and thriving Christian presence in nations across the Levant and the entire Middle East, but that is not happening right now, nor perhaps will, in this generation. We can and ought to be making plans to facilitate such a world, but in the meantime, there is a trickling genocide from which our brethren need relief.
But even with Trump’s executive order, Christians may not get relief. Lymon Stone, in “Here’s What Trump’s Immigration Order Says And How It Needs To Be Fixed,” offers thorough analysis of the executive order, showing that – as the EO stands right now – it may effectively reduce Christian refugees even further. So all of the fuss over any kind of priority for Middle Eastern Christians may be moot. Which makes American Christians’ participation in this outcry even more offensive.
I plead with American Christians to stop betraying their Christian brethren in the Middle East. Your stance on this does not help anyone. No one is asking you to stop having compassion for non-Christian refugees.
As an Iraqi Christian, I ask that you take pity on your fellow Christians. Begin with charity for them. Work for better immigration laws and a more thorough vetting process. Part of improving the situation for all refugees means taking the time to learn about Da’Wah, the process of Islamization, so that we can all work together to ensure it doesn’t happen in our country.
And finally, let us all work to heal our internal discord.
Luma Simms writes on culture, family, philosophy, politics, religion, and on the life and thought of immigrants. She earned a B.S. in physics from California State Polytechnic University Pomona and studied law at Chapman University School of Law before leaving to become an at-home mom. She is the author of Gospel Amnesia: Forgetting the Goodness of the News. She writes for the Philos Project.