Recently voices of outrage over President Trump’s executive order regarding refugees have flooded the media and social media. Numerous Christ followers have argued that the order is discriminatory against Muslims because they claim it singles them out for immigration and visa restrictions. In addition, they argue that the provision in the order that provides preferences towards religious minorities, like Christians, coming from war-stricken countries is also discriminatory as it would potentially allow more Christians into the United States than Muslims. They claim that the executive order is an affront to religious liberty because of the preferences and restrictions. They’ve protested the order through their words and by taking to the streets.
My purpose in writing this post is not to parse the executive order. There have been numerous posts and articles written regarding the order from a plethora of perspectives. I’d encourage you to read the order yourself and draw your own conclusions regarding its content. I write this post as a response to the inconsistency within the Christian community regarding our outrage and protests.
Recently Crux ran an interview with Archbishop Bashar Warda, an Iraqi prelate who has fought on behalf of Iraqi Christians and religious minorities victimized by genocide at the hands of ISIS in his country. When asked what he thought about the protests against the current executive order, Warda responded:
From my perspective in Iraq, I wonder why these protesters were not protesting in the streets when ISIS came to kill Christians and Yazidis and other minority groups. They were not protesting when the tens of thousands of displaced Christians my archdiocese has cared for since 2014 received no financial assistance from the U.S. government or the U.N. There were no protests when Syrian Christians were only let in at a rate that was 20 times less than the percentage of their population in Syria.
I do not understand why some Americans are now upset that the many minority communities that faced a horrible genocide will finally get a degree of priority in some manner.Archbishop Bashar Warda
As I read his words, they resonated with the thoughts and emotions I experienced while watching fellow Christians protesting the executive order. I wanted to ask these brothers and sisters:
1. Where was your outrage and protests when ISIS beheaded the children of Iraqi Christians?
2. Where was your outrage and protests when ISIS crucified Christians in Iraq and Syria?
3. Where was your outrage and protests when the past Administration refused to label the killing of Christians and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as genocide for almost a year and a half?
4. Where was your outrage and protests when there were a disproportionate number of Syrian Muslims and Syrian Christians allowed to flee persecution from ISIS and enter the United States?
If we Christ followers want a watching world, especially Christians being killed and persecuted abroad, to take our outrage and protests seriously, we need to show consistency in our cries against injustice and our cries for justice. When we protest for the religious liberty of Muslims in this country, as we should, we must also protest the persecution of Christians by ISIS and other groups and governments around the world.
We must remember that Christians comprise a minority in many countries around the world. Often these Christ followers exercise their faith in the threat of persecution and death. What we say and what we protest can either build them up or discourage them in their faith. We must be mindful of them when we vocalize our outrage as well because what we say can also cause retribution against them. Regarding the current debate, Archbishop Warda said in his interview with Crux:
I would also say this, all those who cry out that this is a “Muslim Ban” – especially now that it has been clarified that it is not – should understand clearly that when they do this, they are hurting we Christians specifically and putting us at greater risk. The executive order has clearly affected Christians and Yazidis and others as well as Muslims.
Here in Iraq, we Christians cannot afford to throw out words carelessly as the media in the West can do. I would ask those in the media who use every issue to stir up division to think about this. For the media, these things become an issue of ratings, but for us the danger is real.
I would encourage Christ followers to learn a lesson from this man of faith who has endured persecution along with his people. We must be consistent and careful in our outrage and protests
Modified header image provided through creative commons. CC-BY-SA-4.0 by Rhododendrites
Dr. Tim McKnight is Assistant Professor of Missions and Youth Ministry at Anderson University. He has over 21 years of experience in ministry, serving churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He served in youth ministry for 12 years and in the pastorate for 9 years. In addition, Dr. McKnight served as an infantry chaplain in the U.S. Army, deploying on Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom in 2001. He holds a BS in Criminal Justice from Bluefield College, and a M.Div. and PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His primary field of study for the Ph.D. was in evangelism, with additional studies in missions and church history. He has also co-founded Carolina Family Planning Centers and founded Twin Vision Consultants, a church consultation team that helps congregations become healthy and growing churches. He has also served as a disaster relief chaplain in multiple settings in recent years, including in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina.