Opinion

Trump is right: It’s moral and legal to prioritize persecuted Christians

President Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

(RNS) While President Trump’s executive order on refugee resettlement remains the subject of near-constant national discussion, there is one part of that order that shouldn’t be up for debate at all: It is moral and legal to prioritize religious minorities facing persecution.

In fact, Trump should be celebrated for giving attention to religious minorities when Christians, Yazidis and others have so recently faced the threat of genocide in the Middle East.

Prioritizing the religiously persecuted was once the established order of the humanitarian community until the Obama administration began to dismantle those norms and did so in the shadow of countless bombings, beheadings and crucifixions targeting Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and even Egypt (not to mention all the atrocities committed against Yazidis and other minorities).

The tradition might even be credited to the United Nations via two of its most important documents: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The language of Article 2 in the Convention on Genocide reads like it could have been written in response to ISIS’ attacks in 2014 and 2015:

“Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

The fact that religious persecution ought to be taken into account in prioritizing humanitarian assistance is what prompted both houses of Congress to defy President Obama and vote unanimously in support of a genocide resolution against ISIS in 2016.

It’s what prompted Obama’s own secretary of state in March last year to depart from the administration policy to declare the same. Whether Obama agreed with it, U.S. federal law actually required that he take religion into account in determining who is to be resettled in the United States.

One of the most egregious examples of not prioritizing religious minorities occurred in 2015, when Christians displaced by ISIS were excluded from or persecuted within the very United Nations camps established to protect them.

Since nearly all refugees resettled in the West arrive via U.N. referrals, only 53 Syrian Christian refugees and one Yazidi were resettled in the United States between 2012 and 2015. The Christian population in Syria stood at nearly 2 million before civil war began and is now estimated at less than 500,000.

Instead of reforming the system, the United States allowed it to continue, refusing to provide sufficient, special assistance to those facing a special threat.

For far too long, our country has not done enough to help religious minorities in the Middle East via safe zones or refugee resettlement. This is one of the reasons why Christians there uploaded a video to YouTube days before the election, essentially endorsing Trump and saying, “we really hope that this election will be a turning point and bring hope for the Iraqi people and for the Christian minorities, in particular.”

Trump is attempting to do what should have already been done, and it’s an honorable thing to do.

(The Rev. Johnnie Moore is the author of “Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and in Your Own Backyard.” Find him on Twitter  @JohnnieM)

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Johnnie Moore

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  • Its illegal to use any religious test for immigration purposes. The criteria for a refugee is that they face persecution and an immediate fear of harm if they are returned to their nation. If they are being persecuted for being Christian, Yazidi, Jewish or because their village is under ISIS control, it makes no difference.

    We certainly cannot ban people on the basis of their religious faith, which is what making such exceptions will do and what the author is suggesting. One does not protect religious freedom by denying it to others.

    Fact of the matter is Trump has no desire to treat refugees of any stripe like human beings. He has been demonizing them from the outset and spreading pernicious fictions about them for the purposes of sowing fear and mistrust.

  • Ain’t facts wonderful? I reference fact check.org, politically.com and synopses.com as I read the news.

  • There are few things more annoying about white evangelicals than their self-serving preoccupation with persecuted Christians in other countries. Pathetically, they *need* Christians in other countries to be persecuted so they can imagine that they themselves are, or soon will be, too. Johnnie’s readers wouldn’t give two damns about Syrian Christians if they weren’t in the news and couldn’t make political hay of it here in the US. In fact, under different circumstances, they’d be targeting Syrian Christians for missionary work.

  • Except Trump’s order didn’t give priority to “the religious”. It gave priority to Christians, and is a violation of the Constitution and this nation’s ideals.

  • Jesus prophesied that his followers will be hated and persecuted, so yes, they are looking for it and embrace it.

    Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11″Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.12″Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  • Well, it prioritized Christians in a back-handed kind of way. As NPR notes, “If you CTRL+F this document, you won’t find the words “Christian” or “Muslim.” But if you read closely, this is the section that indicates prioritizing Christians.: …the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” And, of course, Christians are very much a minority in Syria. But so are Yazidis and Sunni Muslims (who are the majority world-wide, just not in Syria or Iran).

  • Did they really write “if you CTRL+F” instead of the common English word “search.” Et tu, NPR? Oh well. Maybe they’re just anti-Mac..

  • I’m well aware of what the gospels say, thanks. I’m equally aware that white evangelicals in the US have long *fantasized* about being persecuted because they need to invent something that distinguishes them from the rest of white, middle class American society and culture and thus give some semblance of meaning to the otherwise mundane, consumerist lives they lead.

  • As are Muslims in Myanmar, who, under Trump’s executive order, are eligible for refugee status. I find that most Americans care little when Muslims are persecuted or killed.

  • You’re right on both counts. My daughter works with Karen/Rohingya Muslim refugees among others and can testify to their plight, but most people seem to say “Who? What?” and then move on.

    Strange side note: she’s in Minneapolis, a city where many refugees are resettled. A *very cold* city, where refugees from Burma/Myanmar, Somalia, Laos, and Central America are settled. Go figure. Apparently warm people offset cold weather.

  • A dumb question for you, Johnnie Moore: why only ISIS and why not also the US military as the bad guys?  If, as you claim, “The language of Article 2 in the Convention on Genocide reads like it could have been written in response to ISIS’ attacks in 2014 and 2015: ‘Genocide means … acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such'” – then, as though to suppress the whole truth, why do you not also add that, per reports (1) and (2) below, “it could have been written in response to” US’ attacks in the Middle East?

    (1) “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years” (U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, 2011)

    (2) “the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of ‘excess deaths’ in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost. …  It is also striking to observe that virtually all of the Muslim deaths were the direct or indirect consequence of official U.S. government policy. By contrast, most of the Americans killed by Muslims were the victims of non-state terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.” (Foreign Policy, Nov 30, 2009)

  • Arab Muslims killed is not a problem but an improvement. I am not aware that Myammar muslims have supported Islamism or the international Jihad. If they have not, I suppose they are worthy of consideration. But who has priority? Or do people expect that the US admit millions? And which million first.

  • I wonder how many innocent Germans the US and the UK had to kill during WW2 air offensives. Several hundred thousands? Maybe millions? Do you believe the US should have inste4ad granted them refugee status?

  • If “ISIS’ attacks in 2014 and 2015” => “Genocide” …

    Then “US’ attacks in the Middle East” => “Genocide” …

    Then also “the US and the UK … WW2 air offensives” => “Genocide”

    1st & 2nd truth-claims make some sense, though still subject to debate. But 3rd truth-claim, which is yours, Shmalkandik, is what’s called historical revisionism at best. Who’s the founder of that school of thought? Not just you, I hope.

  • Had to be killed? – Not as many as were killed.

    One of the last members of bomber command to drop a bomb on Nazi Germany (he had been shot down on his second tour, regained Britain after five months of being hidden by the resistance in Holland and Belgium, and volunteered to fly again) died convinced that Dresden was ordered by Churchill in retaliation for Coventry despite Harris’s initial refusal. A refusal based, apparently, not on the inevitable loss of civilian lives but on the conviction that Dresden contained nothing militarily valid enough to be worth risking his flyers’ lives for.

    And, whilst I’m on the soapbox, the disgraceful treatment of those flyers (55,000 dead out of 115,000 – only U-boat crews suffered a greater attrition rate) persisted right through to the institutional disrespect displayed throughout the eventual reluctant recognition of their efforts on 28 June 2012. – rant over – I was there.

  • When Carter banned immigration from majority Muslim Iran after the American hostages were take in 1979 was that a ban on Muslims because of their religion? No. It was a ban on all Iranians as a punishment for radical Muslims who took over our embassy in Teheran. The same applies to the 7 majority Muslim nations which the Obama administration designated a theft to our security. Did you criticize Obama for putting Iraqi and Syrian Christians last on the refugee lists for the past three years? After all it is because of Obama abandoning Iraq in 2011 that we had the growth of ISIS and the refugee catastrophe they caused in in the Middle East. Ancient Christians communities in Iraq and Syria were wiped out thanks to Obama’s total incompetence. If Americans are killed because unvetted Jihadists who posed as refugees enter the USA or from the 7 countries Trump put a temporary ban until we can sort out a vetting process, and even that will unlikely prevent terrorists from coming into the US as “refugees”, all liberals will have blood on their hands.

  • Bad example. Trump is specifically making exceptions for people from those countries who are not Muslim. So yes it us a Muslim ban. It is illegal. More importantly there was absolutely no thought put into consideration how to implement the order. It was not even close to a well thought out plan. So stop pretending this was an intelligent plan that showed an ounce of forethought.

    Btw Carter did not at any point ban refugees from Iran after the 1979 revolution. In fact a sizable enclave in the Los Angeles metro area is comprised of Iranians who came here during the revolution and hostage crisis.

    Also the plan to withdraw from Iraq was started under Bush the Lesser and came with the assent of the Iraqi government. Blaming ISIS on Obama is just one of those alternative facts bandied about by Trump to appeal to the ignorant. If anything the isolationist feckless republican dominated Congress stood by and watched moderate Syrian resistance wither while Saudi Arabia and the UAE pumped money and arms to ISIS as a proxy against Iranian backed forces. Obama did not single out Iraqi and Syrian Christians for special or different treatment from the rest of the refugees there. No religious tests were done. More fiction on your part.

    As for sorting out the vetting process, that is complete bullshit. At no point was the existing vetting processes even noted or even known when this order was given. Everyone coming through here from those countries has to go through immigration vetting just to visit. Whatever alleged flaws exist in the vetting system were unknown to the president and unknown to you. You are just following along with a patently dishonest excuse. The fact that this order affected permanent residents as well, shows its arbitrary nature and the lack of consideration to existing vetting procedures

    Refugees are people who come here out if fear of immediate harm if they go back to their country. So you would consign tens of thousands of people to die because you are paranoid and ignorant. Because if you are turning away refugees, you might as well be executing them. That is what will happen. Blood on your hands doesn’t concern you at all.

    BTW the US has taken in a lot more dangerous people in our refugee waves than this current batch. We took in the most violent criminals from three different countries. Guess what?, the country survived and a generation later we look upon the integration of those refugees fondly. I sincerely doubt these refugees now are nearly as potentially nasty as the Mariel Boatlift. A refugee wave which turned Miami into the murder capital of the US in the mid 80’s.

  • “I wonder how many innocent Germans the US and the UK had to kill during WW2 air offensives.”

    None. If they weren’t trying to get away from the Nazi regime, they were supporting it. In most cases benefiting from it. The only “innocent Germans” being those thrown in camps or fleeing the country.

  • Dresden was the last intact railyard the German army could use in its retreat from the Red Army. Perfectly legitimate target.

  • Well, there is a great line in the film, “Night of the Generals” about how Germans felt about Hitler.

    “in the beginning, everyone loved Hitler. We were winning the war. But once we started losing, then they started grumbling”

    Nazi Germany was a parasitic state which denuded and starved conquered nations to bring prosperity to Germans. The holocaust benefitted Germans who took professional positions over from the interned and murdered Jews. Industrialists relied on slave labor. Conquest and mass murder was profitable to Germans until they started to receive payback for atrocities.

    As for Dresden, they had it coming. Besides, the highest casualty figures concerning the raid came from David Irving. Before the world found out what a lying shtshow he was.

  • Let me ask you this – when Hitler was slaughtering Jews, what would of happened if we allowed the Nazis in first? This is exactly what we are doing now. Omama closed the door on the persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa while he allowed the Sunni Muslims (same sect as ISIS) to enter the US. The Muslims have other rich Arab countries to take them in like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Dubai, etc. The Christians only has the western countries and the attacks on Christians is now widespread across the islamic countries.

  • Jim – if you are a Christian, then why would you turn your back on your brothers and sisters in Christ? Shame on all Christians who careless for the suffering of the Christians in the Middle East and Africa.

  • Omama for the past few years allowed sunni muslims to enter this country while closing the door on the persecuted Christians, don’t you think we should reverse course?

  • That was the exact argument they used to let tens of thousands of people be turned away and murdered by the Nazis. It seems that dangerous bigotry doesn’t change tactics, just targets. Google “SS St. Louis” for the most famous example of how your kind of paranoid thinking aided in genocide.

    You really picked a bad analogy here. The fact that we turned away people fleeing Nazi terror, only to have them murdered, was one of the reasons the immigration system was overhauled after the war in the first place. In fact the SS St. Louis is exactly the kind of incident which I keep in mind when

    This country could handle a few miscreants mixed in with thousands upon thousands of people legitimately seeking a better life. We certainly didn’t all go belly up as a nation when Cuba released its worst murderers, thieves and gangsters upon us in the Mariel Boatlift (which a generation later is now looked upon fondly).

    We have brought in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Muslim countries since 9/11. Not one has been noted in an incident of terrorism. So in the grand scheme of thing, even one terrorist in compared to close to a million people is not worth the panic.

    ” Omama closed the door on the persecuted Christians in the Middle East
    and Africa while he allowed the Sunni Muslims (same sect as ISIS) to
    enter the US.”

    No he did not. You are full of it.

    Lets reiterate something else here. RELIGIOUS TESTS FOR IMMIGRATION PURPOSES ARE ILLEGAL. I don’t have to justify my position here outside of that is what the laws are. This is why the revised order was no longer a Muslim ban.

  • If you are a Christian, why do you want people to be murdered by autocratic regimes and terrorist groups?

  • The statement is true just look at the numbers how many Muslims were allowed verses Christians under Omama.

    You must be a muslim no wonder you have a cold heart.

  • Have you been sleeping? The muslims in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Egypt are attacking Christians.

    Do yourself a favor and get educated in these matters.

  • If you read the fact check link, you would find that there is a difference in the number of Iraq Christians compared to the Syrian Christians. You can’t be a refugee without registering to have that status. What about the Yazidis?

  • You are a liar. You have nothing to back your statements up except speculation. No religious tests were used for refugees under Obama. Trump couldn’t do it either. His new EO no longer separates out Muslims from other refugees from those countries. The issue is moot. There is no Muslim ban, nor is there likely to be one in the future.

    As for cold hearts, I am not the one calling for people to be turned back from our borders to be murdered, but you are. I am not the one who repeated verbatim arguments used to promote the Holocaust, but you are. You might as well be demanding that these people be executed at our border. That is what you are really seeking here. A refugee is someone who comes here out of a well founded fear for their lives if they go back to their home nation.

    I am not Muslim. If you want to know my beliefs, check out my posting history. I am pretty upfront about them. If anything am pro-refugee. The one aspect of our nation which is unique even to fellow democracies is our capacity for taking in refugees and integrating them. No nation has taken in so many disparate populations of the unwanted successfully. No nation has such a responsibility to the world.

  • Educate yourself.

    “The Muslims” in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Egypt are also being attacked by Islamicist militants as well. In fact the chief target of most of these militants are fellow Muslims those who oppose religious extremists. By conflating all of Islam with the extremists, you enable terrorists. Our best weapon against them is a free society willing to take in people from all over the world. American Muslims and refugees finding a new life here. You not only want to attack our freedoms but undermine what works. ISIS should just send you checks for the amount of aid you are giving them.

    https://warisboring.com/american-muslims-turn-in-lots-of-terrorists-5be4561fded1#.2a429357v
    “Immigrants to America from predominantly Muslim countries have been very successful in their adopted country. Their presence in the United States dates back to the country’s earliest days. Muslim immigrants settled the American frontier alongside newcomers of other faiths, all looking to start new lives in the New World.

    U.S. Muslims have served their country as police, diplomats and soldiers. Several died fighting America’s wars and are buried at Arlington National Cemetery alongside Christians, Jews, atheists and adherents of other creeds.

    Islamic State isn’t shy in expressing its contempt for Muslims in the West, especially American ones. The group published a hit-list of those it considers apostates, many of whom are Americans. One is Keith Ellison, the Minnesota congressman who famously took his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Koran”

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