Debate has raged since President Donald Trump announced his executive order temporarily banning entry to the United States of residents from seven Muslim-majority countries. This involves a temporary halt in the United States refugee program.
When it resumes, Christian and other non-Muslim minority groups stand to gain significantly. This represents a stark turnaround from the Obama administration's increasingly liberal approach to the refugee intake which in practical terms ended up favouring Muslim refugees.
There have been mass protests across the United States and around the world against the Trump executive order. Among the protesters have been many Christian individuals and groups, who argue passionately that refugee policy should not discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation.
The arguments offered by such Christian critics of the Trump executive order basically address two themes. First, the Christian call to love our neighbors does not discriminate according to religion, so we should not select those whom we will assist according to religion. Second, the argument is offered that privileging Christian refugees to the United States may well produce a negative backlash against Christian minorities in the Muslim world.
The first argument has a superficial appeal on a biblical basis. The message of the Gospels is indeed one of care and compassion for all, not just for those who share our faith. Nevertheless, the message of the Gospels is also about wisely seeking ways to shape a better world and central to that is the concept of proclamation of the Gospels. That is very difficult to do in areas densely populated by Muslims, whether in Muslim-majority countries or in the West.
One does not need to look very far in the West to find the poisonous fruit of overly-liberal immigration and refugee policies. Muslim communities have grown in northern England, southern Sweden, Denmark, across France, in areas of Germany, Holland and so forth. Where this has happened stories rapidly emerge of ghettos hostile to outsiders (including Christian missionaries), where oppressive cultural practices flourish -- of which women are the most common victims -- which become scenes of intra-Muslim communal rivalry and conflict, sometimes according to ethnicity, other times according to particular Islamic ideological leaning.
Simply put, the arrival of Islamic minority communities in the West has not been a happy story. Muslim minority communities have not settled well in western locations, with a key reason being that there is usually an assumption among these communities that the majority should adapt to them, rather than a reverse process of integration. Indeed, the very word "integration" has come to represent something undesirable.
It might be different if Western governments were willing to engage in a process of social engineering, where integration of newly-arriving Muslim minority communities was achieved, through deliberate policies of dispersal and government-induced interaction with majority society at all levels. But such policies are unlikely to be adopted in our multicultural times. That being the case, then importation of large numbers of Muslim immigrants into Western societies is an unwise move -- Germany will pay a heavy price in terms of social fragmentation in years to come. In short, Christians should show care and compassion for Muslims, but that does not mean that non-Islamic majority countries should become increasingly Islamic in the process.
The second argument is based on the age-old tactic of scaremongering. If we privilege Christians in our immigration program in the West, then Muslims might take it out on Christian minorities in the Muslim world. The problem with this argument is that some Muslims have been doing this to their Christian minorities for the last 1400 years. There have been periods of relative stability and harmony between Christian and Muslim communities in the Middle East. However, history shows that when Muslim-majority societies have fallen on hard times, religious minorities have borne the brunt of Muslim discomfort both through legislated discrimination and community-level intimidation.
Put another way, one should not refuse to assist a relative who is suffering on our doorstep for fear that somebody down the road might be angry if we do provide such assistance. The fact is that Christians from the Middle East are the co-religionists of the majority of most western countries. Christians in the West should not apologize about helping out their religious brothers and sisters who are in need.
President Trump will attract a lot more flak over his executive order in months to come. Perhaps there are ways that it can be more tidily designed and implemented. But he has got the fundamental principles right. Majority Christian nations should adopt immigration policies which preserve and protect their own harmony and social cohesion and they should help out their Christian brothers and sisters. The best way to do this is to prioritize Christians in refugee policy.
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