Christian leaders who have thus far been stalwart supporters of President Donald Trump are very concerned about the leader’s announcement Sunday to pull American troops out of northern Syria.
Trump revealed his foreign policy move over the weekend, when the White House announced the U.S. would be pulling forces out of the region, leaving a vacuum for Turkey to invade, which potentially places Christians in the area in grave danger.
The president took to Twitter Monday to defend his decision, arguing in a thread of posts it’s “time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.” He went on to write the U.S. was only supposed to be in Syria a very short time, but “we stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight.”
Trump explained that, should Turkish forces do “anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey.”
Despite his reassurances, evangelical leaders are still concerned. The Rev. Franklin Graham, an otherwise immovable advocate for Trump, has asked the Republican to reconsider. In addition, Southern Baptist Convention executive Russell Moore, who heads up the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has warned many Christians in Syria will face incredible violence without American protection.
Even Pat Robertson, the 89-year-old host of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club,” has said he is “absolutely appalled” by Trump’s decision to “betray” the Kurds, who have played an immense role in the battle against ISIS, and hand their fate over to “a thug,” referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Evangelicals — who have made up Trump’s base of support since 2016 — are right to be concerned about the president’s foreign policy shift. In July, the U.S.-backed Syriac Military Council asked American forces to help protect thousands of vulnerable Christians from a potential attack by Turkey.
According to a press release obtained by CBN News, the council warned churches will be burned and Christians slaughtered if Turkish forces are given the opportunity to attack the Kurds, many of whom Erdogan’s regime view as terrorists.
“We hope and pray that as we have defended the world against ISIS, the world will not abandon us now,” the statement said in part. “Now is the time for Christian, Western countries, and for Christian churches and believers worldwide, to protect our Christian people in [northeast] Syria from falling victim to a brutal war, dictatorship, fascism, and radicalism.”
Furthermore, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a congressionally mandated nonpartisan panel of experts on religious liberty, has said its members are “deeply concerned” about troops leaving Syria, noting the “potentially grave implications for safety of religious and ethnic communities,” likening it to the humanitarian disaster last year in the Syrian city of Afrin.
The crisis in Afrin arose when Turkish forces launched attacks in Kurdish areas in January 2018. At the time, a pastor in the region penned an open letter, according to The Christian Post, in which he claimed they were “being bombarded by Turkish airstrikes,” and said many people — particularly Christians — were facing “mortal danger” and need assistance because they were “unable to protect ourselves or our families against these attacks.”
Please continue to pray for the Kurds, for our Christian allies in the Middle East, and for wisdom for Trump and other world leaders as they navigate this complex and critical matter.