There’s been no shortage of controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order, with humanitarian organizations beginning to voice their concerns about the potential fallout. And among those organizations is Open Doors USA, a faith-based nonprofit that works to fight Christian persecution around the globe.
David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, told Faithwire in an email interview that he has some serious concerns about some of the provisions in Trump’s order, which essentially halts immigration from seven Muslim countries, shuts down the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and prevents Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S. until further notice.
Among the potential problems, Curry said that any policy that puts Christian refugees before Muslims could “place a target on the backs of Christians” in countries that are plagued by Islamic extremism. But he also spoke about some of the the positives he sees as well.
“At Open Doors USA, we are focused on addressing the plight of persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries around the world,” Curry said. “Even though domestic refugee resettlement is not our focus, we are heartened to see that President Trump has rightfully acknowledged the worsening situation of Christians targeted for their faith around the world.”
He said Open Doors’ expertise is working with Christians on the ground in places like Iraq and Syria, but added that a shut down — even a temporary one — could prove quite problematic.
“Even a temporary shutdown of the U.S. resettlement program will affect thousands of people, including directly impacting displaced Christians on the ground in the countries where Open Doors is at work,” he said. “We’re very concerned about all of the lives that are impacted by this executive order, and we’re committed to continuing to meet the needs of persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria, and many other countries, many of whom are now – at least temporarily – being turned away from the United States.”
Curry also responded to Trump’s claim that he will prioritize Christian refugees saying it’s essential to create pathways for all religious minorities to come to the U.S., and that any focus on Christians above other groups could have sweeping ramifications.
“The concept of prioritizing only Christians and other refugees belonging to religious minority groups while denying entry to Muslims is concerning,” he said. “Not only is this concept antithetical to our faith as Christians, but it can also result in placing a target on the backs of Christians in countries plagued by Islamic extremism.”
Curry said that Christians are often seen in these countries as already being aligned with the West or, more specifically, the U.S., and that the tone set by the prioritization could make problems worse for them. He added, “For the U.S. to then begin prioritizing Christian refugees over Muslims could be particularly detrimental to the safety of minority Christians throughout the Middle East, who could face a serious backlash as a result.”
Open Doors is encouraging a “need-based approach” in which all faiths are treated equally, rejecting any “religion tests,” as Curry believes they would simply increase worldwide persecution; he also offered up some additional advice to the Trump administration.
“Going beyond resettlement, we would encourage the Trump administration to look at the root causes of religious persecution throughout the world and seek to address the spread of violent persecution throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and in many other areas of the globe,” he said. “This goes beyond allowing access for refugees, although this is crucial. It also means integrating international religious freedom at the very core of U.S. foreign policy.”
Curry has made his views on the Obama administration’s handling of Christian persecution more than known, telling Faithwire earlier this month that he believe the administration “failed” to protect freedom of religion for this cohort. Despite disagreeing with portions of Trump’s order, he said Open Doors USA believes the new administration has an opportunity to right Obama’s supposed wrongs.
“We believe that the Trump administration has a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for millions of people facing persecution for their faith around the world through integrating religious freedom more deeply into U.S. foreign policy,” he said. “Practically speaking, we are urging the administration to appoint or re-appoint an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom within the U.S. State Department.”
Curry said that filling the position would send a message to the world that the U.S. views religious freedom as an essential right to be cherished.
“These first 100 days of the Trump administration are crucial – we need to ensure that this key position is not left vacant for any amount of time,” he said. “A gap in filling this position sends the wrong message internationally.”
Open Doors is also calling for Trump to push for accountability in trade agreements with countries that have a Christian population facing systematic persecution — countries like Vietnam, India and Saudi Arabia.
While many Christian leaders have agreed with Curry in voicing these concerns, others have taken a different approach. The Rev. Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse, defended the order and offered his support for safe zones inside the countries where Christians are under siege.
“As it relates to the United States, I believe that all people coming from other countries need to be completely vetted,” Graham said in a statement to the Charlotte Observer. “We need to be sure their philosophies related to freedom and liberty are in line with ours. Sharia law, for instance, is ultimately incompatible with the Constitution of this nation.”
As Faithwire previously reported, Samaritan’s Purse recently opened a trauma hospital in Iraq, and Graham has been vocal about calling for doctors, nurses and others to come and serve people under siege in that country.
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