There have been many controversial things President Trump has done in his first month as President and arguably none have been more controversial than his ban on people coming to the US from seven identified as problematical Muslim majority countries that according to his advisors are so out of control that it is now difficult to determine if those wanting to come to the US are good and genuine people or they are intent on doing harm by coming. It has been labeled as a Muslim or refugee ban by an often hostile press, but my understanding it is an immigration ban, some (maybe most) of which are refugees and Muslims. The fact the ban has been overturned by the notoriously liberal “ninth circuit” (judiciary) and we will soon be seeing a modified resubmission of the Executive Order seeking to re-impose such a ban, is generally well understood.
Before returning to this matter and offering my opinion, I believe some pertinent personal background is in order as well as making reference to a piece of information that was pointed out to me earlier today and which has sparked off this particular post. As people who know me know, my main area of community activism these days is homelessness. Another area that interests me, which arguably is one specific aspect of homelessness, is the plight of refugees, plus those who may be regarded as asylum / sanctuary seekers until such time they are officially accepted as refugees. In my early days of most of my time community activism, around the turn of the millennium, I often come across such folk and played some part in supporting them and helping them toward gaining status. It struck me as ironic and wrong how the system functions. Many of these folk were thwarted in their aspirations by officialdom and yet going back to around 2004 when Poland became part of the EU, the UK began to let in a large number of economic migrants without putting up barriers and far more than they were obliged to.
Fast forwarding to a year or so ago, as the world became aware and incensed at the large number of refugees being created as a result of troubles in countries in Middle East, like Syria and Iraq, and the atrocities being perpetrated by the likes of ISIS or despotic rulers, there was as I understand pressure put upon western governments to take in a certain number of refugees. Here in Southend, I joined a disparate consortium of interested parties wanting to invite a number of these to our town and in such a way not to put undue pressure on overstretched infrastructure as people offered to make available accommodation and other help for people who might come in. I recall all this when a lady at my church pointed at a piece in a prayer diary put out by the Barnabus Fund, who are practically committed to helping victims of the conflicts taking place in the Middle East. What struck me was mention being made of the 10801 “refugees” taken in by the USA in the last quarter of 2016, which meant the US had exceeded their commitment in taking in refugees. Interestingly, of the number taken in, 56 were Christian, 20 Shia Muslims and 17 Yazid, the rest (99%), being Sunni Muslim. The irony is these are the groups that have suffered most because of the Sunni leaning ISIS terrorists. The prayer was for the new US administration to be more welcoming to Christians, Yazidi and Shiites, to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.
Another cause for reflection was an article pointed out by a well known Christian leader, titled: “Survey: 76% of ‘White Evangelical Protestants’ Agree With the President’s Refugee Ban”. The article begins: “Pew Research published the results of a recent survey today. And the results are, well, revealing. Most Americans, the survey shows, disapprove of President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily stop refugees from entering the U.S. His plan is to set up something of a 120-day moratorium to prevent people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. while the administration can review and adjust vetting processes. Nationally, 59 percent of respondents to Pew’s survey disapprove of the ban, while 38 percent say they approve”. I suppose, one of the points being begged was the lack of sympathy for refugees by certain White Evangelicals compared with the population at large. This was picked up by those who commented on the post, the majority being indignant with Christians supporting the ban.
As I reflect upon the above and seek to draw lessons based on my views and values, I realise do not possess all the relevant facts and may not have adequately balanced all those facts I do have, but I will have a go. I have no doubt that taking in genuine refugees is a good thing and America has over the years done much good in this regard, such that to turn their backs on these now would be a mistake. However, I do not believe they should feel compelled to take in economic migrants although they should be fair when deciding who they do take in. As for Trump’s migrant order, in principle I agree if indeed it was designed to stop unvetted people from countries that present a higher risk, and is right and constitutional. While the independence of the judiciary is important, judgments should not be given merely because certain activist judges disagree with the President. But I do suspect the original order was flawed and the wrong people in certain cases were targeted and suffered as a result. Next time a similar order is made, it is important to argue the case and resolve as best one can any anomaly. The matter of religion cannot be ignored even though the previous administration and our own UK government are afraid to upset Muslims. However much people may wish to castigate the President, he rightly recognizes the unfairness whereby Christian refugees, many of who are living in desperate circumstances, rarely get a chance to come to America (the same goes for the UK), and this is part due to Christians not going to UN camps out of fear and thereby don’t get referred) and one hopes he does address this as he said he would. It is scandalous that many Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, do so little to help refugees. As for Muslims, most do live as if theirs is a religion of peace and as good citizens. A significant minority, however, do not (sadly attacks on women and children and other attacks, in countries like Sweden, France and Germany, by Muslim men, are not isolated) and their holy book (The Koran) does talk about waging holy war and political domination and some adherents take this teaching seriously. While it is controversial to say so, Christians may more likely integrate and accept cultural norms than Muslims. Trump, unlike his predecessor, gets it! Trump is also right to recognize, with too many refugees to practically assimilate in the West, the priority has to be on defeating ISIS and regaining regional stability, with safe zones provided in the interim, and properly vetting wannabe immigrants.
I look with interest on developments, recognizing we live in dangerous times and that the threat of those coming to live in our countries from abroad are real and there needs to be more than adequate checks, but also there needs to be an intelligent and compassionate response to the refugee crisis we are now witnessing.