U.S. President Donald Trump's refugee policy which prioritizes persecuted Christians and religious minorities is a tradition that the American government has been doing in the last century, according to top religious freedom advocates.
Last month, President Trump told Christian Broadcasting Network exclusively that he will prioritize the asylum applications of Christians once the travel ban is lifted. He vowed to help them because they were "horribly treated" and found it more difficult to enter the United States compared to Muslims.
Trump's temporary travel ban on refugees from the Middle East has sparked opposition from Christian groups, with many disagreeing with the president's plan to prioritize persecuted minorities once the ban is over. For some Christian leaders, this plan could actually be detrimental to believers, The Christian Post reports.
World Relief vice president of advocacy Jenny Yang said "thinking [that] Christians are preferred to other religions actually perpetuates the risk they face." Rev. Thomas Reese of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom echoed Yang's thoughts, telling The Washington Post that it "feeds that narrative that this is a war between the Christian West and the Muslims."
However, international religious freedom experts argue that there is nothing new about the U.S. treating persecuted religious minorities as top priority in aid and resettlement. Andrew Walther, the Knights of Columbus' vice president of communication and strategic planning, said prioritizing Islamic State victims makes sense because the U.S. has already declared that the militant group has committed genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
"In previous cases of genocide, the United States government has prioritized religious minorities who were targeted for genocide, who were refugees, who were displaced, who were in need of humanitarian aid, immigration or resettlement assistance," Walther told CP. "What we have is an unbroken history of prioritizing people that have been victims of genocide or targeted for genocide. That is a proud tradition for this country."
Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom senior fellow Samuel Tadros' views on Trump's refugee policy is similar to that of Walther's. Faith McDonnell, the director of the Institute on Religion & Democracy's religious liberty programs, told CP that she is shocked that American Christians have made huge efforts to fight the travel ban but have done nothing to stop the slaughter of their fellow believers elsewhere.