World churches call on US to uphold tradition of welcoming refugees

(Photo: Paul Jeffrey / WCC)Syrian refugees walk in the countryside outside Messstetten, Germany on Oct. 24, 2015. They had applied for asylum in Germany and were awaiting word on the government's decision. Meanwhile, they lived in a room in a former army barracks in Messstetten, where church groups and other community members provided a variety of hospitality.

The World Council of Churches along with two of its key ecumenical partners has urged the United States "as one of the most significant destination countries for refugee resettlement worldwide" to uphold its long tradition of welcoming refugees.

The WCC, ACT Alliance and The Lutheran World Federation issued a joint statement Jan. 31 reaffirming their conviction that their faith calls on all Christians "to love and welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced person, the other."

US. President Donald Trump has faced mass protests and global anger over his Jan. 27 ban on travelers from seven Muslim majority countries.

The ban has also been criticized by allies, and business conglomerations as it unleashed confusion over its implementation and spurred opposition among Democrats and growing unease among Republican lawmakers as well.

Trump has suspended the entire U.S. refugee admissions system for 120 days as well as the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. He has also banned entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days.

That includes includes dual nationals. The order prioritizes refugee claims on the basis of religious persecution.

"As one of the most significant destination countries for refugee resettlement worldwide, we urge the United States to uphold its long tradition of welcoming refugees and offering them international protection, in accordance with its commitments and obligations under international law," said the WCC's joint statement.

"The world is currently experiencing the largest forced displacement crisis since World War II, and 86 percent of the world's refugees are being hosted in developing countries."


"For the USA to more than halve its annual intake of refugees would not only severely affect people in urgent need of refuge, but also encourage other developed countries to participate in a further erosion of international protection for refugees."

The WCC, LWF and ACT said they specifically regret the "specific and indefinite suspension of refugee admission for Syrians, in view of the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in the region."

They said, "This is an abysmal failure of compassion and responsibility."

UK-based Christian Aid said a rejection of refugees, whatever their faith, is a rejection of Christian values.

Responding to President Trump's comments, in which he asserted his intention to prioritise Syrian Christian refugees, Christian Aid has spoken out against favoring specific religious minorities, saying that to do so ignores the central message of the Gospel.

Tom Viita, Head of Advocacy at Christian Aid, commented: "At the heart of the Christian faith is a clear command to 'love the stranger' and to stand with the vulnerable, whoever they may be. To follow Christian teaching means to welcome people in need - whatever their faith - not prioritise people who happen to share one's own beliefs.

"A rejection of refugees, whatever their faith, is a rejection of Christian values. Trump would do well to read his bible before enacting discriminatory policies."

The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein denounced Trump's ban on travel to the United States from some Muslim-majority countries.

Zeid said Jan. 30, "Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law."

He was quoted from the Twitter account of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as saying, "The U.S. ban is also mean-spirited, and wastes resources needed for proper counter-terrorism."

Yet, it was not only faith and human rights leaders who were knocked back by the Trump travel decree.

The travel ban spooked world stock markets on Jan. 30 seen as a reaction to Trump's travel ban, which some dealers said may be an early taste of coming turmoil prompted by the U.S. president, AFP reported.

Asian and European equities kicked off the downward spiral and were joined by Wall Street, with the Dow index waving goodbye to the 20,000-point milestone level it breached for the first time last week.

Markets were "on the back foot after U.S. President Trump announced one of his most radical policies yet, in the form of a travel ban," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson. Investors are beginning to lose confidence in Trump's ability "not to cause damage to the U.S. economy," he said.

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