Christian leaders have spoken out against Donald Trump’s plan to prioritize Christian refugees, as the president confirmed his decision in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The segment, which aired Sunday evening, was taped at the White House Friday, the same day Trump signed an executive order banning Syrian refugees indefinitely and closing US doors to visitors from seven predominantly Muslims countries.
During the interview, the president pledged to give priority to Christians applying for refugee status, saying it had been easier for Muslim people to get into the United States than for Christians. Available evidence, however, shows that the US admitted 37,521 Christian refugees and 38,901 Muslim refugees in 2016.
Trump’s CBN interview came after the mogul denied that his executive actions represented a Muslim ban, and while protests took place across the nation against the immigration order.
CBN host David Brody asked Trump during the interview: ‘As it relates to persecuted Christians, do you see them as kind of a priority here?’
Trump replied: ‘Yes.’
When Brody asked again, ‘You do?’ the president continued: ‘They’ve been horribly treated. 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.’
Numbers provided by the Pew Center show that the US admitted almost the same numbers of Christian and Muslim refugees in 2016 – 37,521 and 38,901 respectively.
Syria’s population is made up of 93 per cent of Muslim people and five per cent of Christians, according to a 2010 estimate by the Pew Center.
‘We have no evidence that would support a belief that the Obama administration was discriminating against Christian populations,’ Reverend Scott Arbeiter, the president of World Relief, the humanitarian branch of the National Association of Evangelicals, told the New York Times.
Christian leaders have said they oppose Trump’s decision to prioritize Christian refugees.
‘We believe in assisting all, regardless of their religious beliefs,’ Bishop Joe S Vásquez, who chairs the migration committee of the US Conference Of Catholic Bishops, told the newspaper.
One of the religious leaders speaking out against the executive order was Jen Smyers, the associate director for immigration and refugee policy of Church World Service, a ministry with more than 30 denominations in its members.
Smyers said that Friday, the day Trump signed the executive order setting up the immigration bans, was a ‘shameful day’ for the US.
‘Christ calls us to care for everyone, regardless of who they are and where they come from,’ World Relief’s senior vice president of advocacy and policy Jenny Yang told The Atlantic. ‘That has to be a core part of our witness—not just caring for our own, but caring for others as well.’
Meanwhile, Trump defended his order on immigration Sunday afternoon, saying in a statement that ‘America is a proud nation of immigrants’ that ‘will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression,’ but ‘while protecting our own citizens and border’.
He denied once again that his executive order, which bans visitors from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, seven predominantly Muslim countries, was a ban aimed at Muslim people.
‘To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe,’ he said. ‘There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.
‘We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.’
He also placed part of the blame on his predecessor Barack Obama.
‘My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months,’ Trump said of his own measure.
Obama’s directive affected only refugees and came after a specific terror threat. Trump’s order is broader and applies to all citizens from the seven countries included in the 90-day ban.
Trump also said that those countries ‘are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror’.
The mogul told Brody during the rest of the interview that he had been relying on his own faith more since becoming president.
‘The office is so powerful that you need God even more because your decisions are no longer, “Gee I’m gonna build a building in New York.” These are questions of massive life and death,’ he said.
The mogul also said he thought he knew who he would pick as a Supreme Court justice but wasn’t ‘100 per cent’.
‘I think the person that I pick will be a big, big – I think people are gonna love it. I think evangelicals, Christians will love my pick and will be represented very fairly,’ he added.
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