What’s the story?
Controversial new US President Donald Trump has outraged the international community by signing an Executive Order banning Muslim travellers from seven countries from entering the United States.
Even taking into account the ferocity of his campaign, no-one quite expected Donald Trump’s Presidency to become quite so intense, quite so soon. After announcing he’ll cut funding to various community projects, and then that he really will build a wall between the US and Mexico, Trump made by far his biggest and more extraordinary move so far by signing an Executive Order, banning travellers from certain countries from entering the US.
The Order effectively means that the US government’s refugee admissions programme has been halted for an initial period of 120 days, with an indefinite ban in place for Syrian refugees. There is also an immediate 90-day suspension in place to cover anyone arriving from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, Libya and Sudan.
President Trump’s argument is that ‘extreme vetting’ is needed in order to keep America safe from potential terrorists, even though the seven nations named in the order have not produced a single terrorist responsible for an atrocity on US soil. As a result of the ban, over 100 people have been detained at US airports so far, including – as the BBC reported – a Scottish national who travels on an Iranian passport, and who has been unable to fly home from a South American holiday because it involved a connection in the USA.
Protests against what’s being called the #MuslimBan on social media have been growing steadily, with people of all faiths and none taking to the streets, and to airports, to demonstrate their outrage. A raft of similar protests is quickly being planned in the UK, while a petition demanding the new President should not be invited for an official State visit here has raced to a million signatures within a day of being launched. Information and misinformation is circling and spreading like wildfire, but whatever the outcome of Trump’s first major move as President, it’s certain that this won’t be the last time he courts controversy. For the next four years, protests, petitions and Internet outrage will be the wallpaper of life in the West.
What have others been saying?
This BBC explainer runs through the key points of Trump’s Executive Order.
British athlete Mo Farah, who lives and trains in the US but hails originally from Somalia, called the ban ‘ignorant and prejudiced.’
The New York Taxi Drivers Alliance announced a strike from picking up passengers from JFK airport, in reaction to Trump’s ban.
My piece for Christian Today, written just before the announcement of the immigration ban, asks: what will it take for certain American evangelicals to disown Trump?
#1 – CARING FOR REFUGEES
God’s instructions to his people in the Old Testament include a command to “treat the stranger who sojourns among you as the native among you” (Leviticus 19 v 33). As he teaches them how to live human existence to the fullest extent again after 400 years in Egypt, he reminds them that they have just experienced a long portion of their history as a nation as refugees in a foreign land (v34). Jesus echoes this kind of teaching – having been a refugee in Egypt himself – when he talks about hospitality in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’. “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?... And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5: 46-47).” And his famous parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 instructs his listeners to “go and do likewise” after they’ve heard the story of a foreign man from a different religion caring for an ailing Jewish man.
#2 – PROTEST
Jesus’ ministry was conducted in a very different environment to the one in which Christians in the modern West find themselves. Jesus’ people were living under military occupation; their territory claimed by a foreign empire. Some scholars believe that Jesus’ teachings included subversive calls to protest and peaceful rebellion: turning the other cheek actually being an invitation for a Roman soldier to disgrace himself by using his unsanitary hand; carrying a soldier’s equipment for an extra mile being a clever way to force him to break military mistreatment rules. Whether or not there’s any truth in this, it’s clear from Jesus’ famous teaching in Matthew 5 that he was rarely found on the side of the politically powerful. His Beatitudes include blessings for “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” and for “peacemakers”; it seems clear that Jesus calls his people to stand up and speak out when the powerful choose to abuse their power.
Points for prayer
- Pray for Donald Trump, that he will realise the gravity of his actions, and reconsider them.
- Pray for protests – in the US and further afield – that they will remain peaceful, but will also have an impact on the watching US government.
- Pray for those being detained due to the Executive Order, that they’d be well-treated and fairly represented.
- Pray for American Muslims, that they wouldn’t be fearful, and that they would feel loved and supported by those around them – especially Christians.
- Pray for America, that it will not become further polarised by the actions of the new President.
- Pray for the American church, that God would enable them to be a prophetic voice to power when necessary.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.