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Evangelical leaders urge Trump to reconsider refugee order

Those who signed open letter say U.S. can’t close its doors to global humanitarian crisis

Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf holds an American flag after she arrived with her husband and daughter at O'Hare International Airport, in Chicago. Associated Press/Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

Evangelical leaders urge Trump to reconsider refugee order

WASHINGTON—Thousands of evangelical leaders are asking President Donald Trump to reconsider his executive order pausing the United States refugee program and barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Christian humanitarian group World Relief published a letter in The Washington Post on Wednesday with signatures from 100 prominent evangelical leaders asking Trump to reassess his decision. Signatories included popular Christian authors Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Ann Voskamp, as well as church leaders such as Bill Hybels, Eric Costanzo, and Eugene Cho. World Relief opened the letter to other pastors and church staff and this morning delivered it to the White House with more than 3,000 signatures from congregations in all 50 states.

“As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over 2,000 years, to serve the suffering,” the letter states. “We cannot abandon this call now. We live in a dangerous world and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting the terms on refugee admissions. However, compassion and security can coexist.”

Trump’s order temporarily stopped all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, barred immigration from Syria indefinitely, and blocked all visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for the next three months. Trump has called the order necessary to ensure the safety of Americans.

The order currently is on hold while it awaits legal review at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and most analysts expect the Supreme Court eventually will weigh in.

World Relief President Scott Arbeiter told reporters today those fleeing persecution could lose their lives while they wait for the refugee program to restart, assuming the executive order survives its legal challenge and goes back into effect.

“We are closing our doors during the height of the greatest refugee crisis in recorded history,” Arbeiter said.

Some polls suggest most Americans favor Trump’s immigration order. A recent survey from Morning Consult and Politico showed 55 percent of registered voters agree with Trump’s decision. Most support falls along party lines: About half of independents and 82 percent of Republicans back the order, while 65 percent of Democrats oppose it.

And while some U.S. evangelicals rush to show their discontent with Trump’s decision, many believe it’s a necessary precaution.

Evangelist Franklin Graham, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., Southern Baptist pastor Ronnie Floyd, and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins are just a few of the evangelical leaders defending Trump’s order.

Perkins told Fox Business on Wednesday his understanding of the Bible informs his support for delaying refugees coming into the United States.

“The Bible, as it gives instruction on taking care of the stranger, never, never suggests that you are to indiscriminately let people into your country that want to do you harm,” Perkins said. “This is about those countries who have been producing people who want to undermine America, attack America, and we’re simply saying ‘pause this.’”

Graham told the Huffington Post he supports the order for similar reasons.

“We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order,” he said. “Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”

But Costanzo, pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., suggested a less noble underpinning for Trump’s executive order support: Many hesitate to stand up for refugees because the majority of the oppressed are Muslim.

“We may not say it out loud, but I think many conservative Christians almost believe Muslims deserve their suffering,” Costanzo said Thursday. “If our security is a priority and they happen to suffer as a result, that’s just collateral damage we can’t avoid.”

World Relief plans to deliver copies of the letter to members of Congress in the coming days.

Evan Wilt Evan is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD reporter.


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So Jesus is taking a walk with President Trump and Vice President Pence and on a dusty road they come across 100 prominent evangelical pastors returning from the Washington Post after purchasing a full page ad to share their petition "denouncing" President Trump and Vice President Pence for the "ban" on certain refugees from certain countries.


They are all proudly carrying a copy of the petition, admiring the wide variety of signature styles and all have pins on their coats celebrating their signatures on the petition that has received such promotion and acceptance by the media.

After some pleasantries, Jesus kneels on the dusty road and begins writing in the dust.

This creates some murmuring when the 100 prominent evangelicals look at the writing.  Jesus continues and it turns out that Jesus has written in the dirt, "Where was your petition when ...., Where was your petition when ....., Where was your petition when ....."  This writing in the dust goes on until Jesus has written 100 times incidents that might have been worthy of a petition.

When Jesus looks up after all his writing he finds no prominent evangelical pastors standing before him.

Steve Dossin

I do not understand why Trump suspended the refugee program. That is the program that already has "extreme vetting" that we want to get to. The other immigration should be stopped until extreme vetting is in place, but leave the status quo in programs already working properly.




First, I want to preface my comments by stating that as Christians we need to seek God's guidance in our walk with Him. Second, I believe Christians should help all those who God brings across our path; however, I also believe God gave us common sense in making important decisions. The refugees that are subject to President Trump's ban represent a small fraction of the great number of people around the world  who are in danger of serious harm or death, whether its through starvation, disease, genocide, religious persecution, etc. I would venture a guess that this number totals in the many millions if not in the tens of millions of people worldwide.  And I fear my "guesstimate" may be on low side. Many of these people are also in eminent danger every day. What do we do about these people? Unfortunately, as a nation, we cannot help the many hundreds of millions of people (probably billions) worldwide who would most likely find a better life if they could relocate to the United States.  If we, as a nation, help in the resettlement of these refugees, and I believe we should play a part, wouldn't it make proper sense to ensure that each is truly a refugee and not someone  here to harm us? That decision should be left up to the President to make, as we elected him to make those types of decisions.  I think as Christians we should use the sense God gave us and not do everything based on emotion. 

Wayne Asbury

I am a Christian and I signed the petition mentioned in this article because I agree with it.  I did not vote for Trump for lots of different reasons.  But most of my friends,  Christian and otherwise,  did vote for Trump and support many of his policies.  Here is the real shocker.  We're still friends.  But isn't that how it should be?  Why do we so quickly question the reality of some one's faith or religious experience when we fail to agree on political issues?  Could it be that we're following the bad examples our leaders have set for us?

Here is my personal appeal to every one.  Let's pracitice our right to disagree especially when it comes to very emotional issues like immigration.  But can't we do that without snide remarks, or trying to infer that every body else who disagrees with us is either hateful, stupid, or unChristlike?  Personal attacks accomplish so little, other than stirring up strife, resentment, and anger.  I don't think any of us really want to accomplish that. 

We as Christians don't even agree on the best way to worship and follow Jesus Christ.  We're not gonna agree on this, or any other issue, in the near future.  So here's my plea.  Let us go on debating vigorously.  But let us show our friends,  Christian and otherwise,  that we can do this with respect and diginity.

Wayne Asbury

I think you may be missing something.  For 8 years I as a Christian pastor, who did not vote for President Obama, have heard other Christians refer to him as the antichrist.  And others called him a muslim just like people accused Thomas Jefferson of being a muslim.  All of these attacks were emotional and at best very loosely based in reality.  But it's called free speech.  There are lots of Christians who don't support Trump which is also a positive sign of a free democracy.  No we didn't suddenly wake up.  We've been awake and protesting sin the whole time.  And that's sin on both sides of the political aisle. Isn't that how it should be?

Idaho ob

Do the refugees have to come to our country to be helped? America, with allies, should set up safe zones in these countries and minister there and allow the people to resettle when peace is secured. Resettling untold thousands from countries that can't vet these people is insane.

Allen Johnson

My wife and I will continue to generously financially support World Relief (and appreciate the other resettlement organizations). We follow Jesus who himself as a child was a refugee fleeing from a murderous threat. And we try to follow Jesus who taught us to invite strangers in rather than shut them out (Matthew 25: 38; 43) as unto Him (a consequential heaven or hell teaching that   will apply not just to the individual but to the nation). So woe to the United States if it thinks its security lies with inhospitability! And even more so, woe to those self-styled Christians who think they are doing God’s work through pandering to this selfish, fearful, arrogant national leadership that is closing its doors to carefully vetted refugees!

The United States has bloody hands in much of this refugee crisis. For example, its misbegotten Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, occupations, and corrupting influences have destabilized the Middle East and radicalized segments of Islam. And now desperate people from this region are seeking safety! Why do some "Christians" think safety comes by cowering under the cross?

Those of us who conscientiously espouse a pro-life position that abortion is a sin and social evil should understand that helping  desperate refugees is also pro-life.

This is a Status Confessionis moment when the very integrity of the Christian Church is at stake.  What would Jesus Do?


We are commanded in God's Word to "obey the laws of the land", though those who are unsaved do not abide by God's commandments. Still, they will one day give account for their ungodly deeds. God expects us to help the suffering, the sick, the oppressed, etc., but why would we allow the works of the devil to infiltrate our land? Don't these pastors understand that God expects us to use wisdom and discretion in our dealings with these terrorist countries? President Trump is NOT banning these people forever, he is simply saying, in childlike terms (for those who can't seem to understand this) that we need to use discretion and investigate the lives and activities of these people. Even the women are suspect sometimes because they have been so indoctrinated by this evil they truly believe they are serving their god in this evil way of life. Why is it so hard for people to understand that President Trump is obligated to protect this country? This is a battle being waged in the spirit world between good and evil. If these pastors would truly ASK God to show them what HE wants instead of using their heads instead of their hearts, they would know that God is a righteous God and he would expect our President to do his job in full. That's why people are fighting against him-because they do not have the mind of Christ.While I do not know where Mr. Trump stands with God, he is still the man God "allowed" to win this election and what would people be saying right now if he did nothing, like our previous president with whom it seemed "anything goes"? Even when some of these people come into this country, they still have a strong belief that their "book" teaches them to hate and destroy those of us who don't believe as they do-that we are infidels and we are evil-so why then do they want to come here? If the women and children only are allowed to come into this country, they still have contact with their husbands, fathers, brother, sons, etc and the terrorist attitude still prevails in their hearts and lives. WHAT, I pray is so wrong about us wanting only to "be sure" we are not subjecting our loved ones to danger? WHAT is wrong with people? It is common sense to me.


The World Relief organization is funded not only by individuals and churches, but by governments.  This statement on their facebook page speaks volumes:    "These changes include a substantial reduction of refugees allowed to enter the U.S., and funding cuts for resettlement agencies like World Relief that compromise our ability to adequately care for refugees and immigrants" 


OOPS. I think we want to help families not terrorists and that's how the temporary order was legally given. Obama did the same thing, but hey, no one cares what he did, right?

John Stone


World Relief is one of nine major federal refugee resettlement contractors, paid by the head to place refugees. According to the 2015 financials, 73% of their revenue is from government grants.

Steve SoCal

I am as interested in assisting genuine refugees as almost anyone else, but I disagree with this open letter by these evangelical leaders. 

Firstly, World Relief hardly has an objective voice on this issue, although theirs is one of the loudest.  When the order was given they bemoaned the fact that some of their field offices might have to close.  Why is that?  It's probably because they are so heavily reliant on the money that comes with each refugee that they help to resettle.  They should make that fact plain as they lead the parade.  It seems that only a few month pause is more than then can handle.

The language they are throwing around that people's lives may be lost is, in the large majority of cases, a complete exaggeration.  Yes, it is a disappointment and hardship for many to wait a few months more, but most refugees that I am aware of are in a setting where they have been in process for years already.  A few months more won't change very much in most cases.  And the hardship should be blamed on Islamic violence and terrorist threats, not on a brief effort to increase security in our refugee program.

Also, I believe these Christian leaders should have sent the message privately to the president to express their views.  Why post it publicly in the press?  The biggest problem is that they are, perhaps unintentionally, giving support to some particularly un-Christian entities and individuals who are fighting tooth and nail to undermine the new administration in the hopes of advancing progressive, and often immoral, causes.

A friend recently attended one of the airport protests to support refugees.  He was shocked upon arrival to see all of the far-left causes that were present at what he thought was a protest to support refugees fleeing persecution and violence.


This is a pause not a slammed door.  And perhaps I am wrong, but was there not a hardship exemption in this pause?  If so, are these leaders operating with the same "extreme compassion" that is animating so many changes in wider society and the church?