Senior evangelical leaders have written to President Trump and Vice-President Pence urging them to reconsider Trump’s executive order freezing the US refugee programme.
Among the signatories to the letter are Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision US, Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief.
The letter obtained by Politico says: “As evangelical Christians, we are guided by the Bible to be particularly concerned for the plight of refugees, individuals who have been forced to flee their countries because of the threat of persecution.”
It says: “While the US has in recent years 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 to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.”
It says that while vetting those considered for resettlement is important, the US screening process is already very thorough and that “our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure”.
Referring to the extensive ministries among refugees many churches have, the letter says: “We would ask that you reconsider these decisions, allowing for resettlement of refugees to resume immediately so that our churches and ministries can continue to live out our faith in this way.”
Separately, World Relief issued a condemnation of Trump’s order suspending the refugee programme for 120 days. “The lengthy delay imposed in this ban further traumatizes refugees, most of whom are women and children, keeps families separated and punishes people who are themselves fleeing the terror we as a nation are rightly fighting to end,” said Scott Arbeiter, World Relief President.
World Relief’s statement said: “No refugee enters the United States who is not approved by the State Department and vetted with great care by the department of Homeland Security and other US agencies. This process, often lasting 18-24 months, includes biometric scans, multiple interviews, and other safeguards.”
Arbeiter added: “We stand with refugees. Standing with us are many thousands of American citizens in congregations and communities across the nation who have joined us in this cause. We do so remembering that many of our ancestors came to this nation fleeing the persecution of their day. In a day in which the world faces the greatest humanitarian crisis we have known we cannot be slow to act. Far too much is at risk.”
The World Evangelical Alliance issued a coded rebuke yesterday that did not name Trump but referred to “recent developments”. In its “Call to Welcome Refugees” it calls on Christians to “actively love and welcome refugees” and on Christian leaders to “deepen their biblical understanding of forced displacement and to intentionally minister in ways intended to create space in the hearts and minds of others for refugees.”