In an interview to the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, Trump said his administration will give priority to Christian refugees because they had suffered “more so” than others, “so we are going to help them”.
The President’s remarks came after he signed an executive order on the same day to temporarily bar US entry to refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations — Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
Besides the clergy members, Trump’s remarks about the Christian refugees was also slammed by some of the evangelical, Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders who represent the churches most active in trying to aid persecuted Christians.
“We believe in assisting all, regardless of their religious beliefs,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, the chairman of the committee on migration for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Jen Smyers, the director of policy and advocacy for the immigration and refugee programme of Church World Service, a ministry affiliated with dozens of Christian denominations, called Friday a “shameful day” in US history.
In interviews on Sunday, churchgoers in several cities were sharply divided on the issue, the New York Times said.
“You look at a city like Mosul, which is one of the oldest Christian populations in the world,” said Mark Tanner, 52, a worshipper at Buckhead Church, an evangelical church in Atlanta, referring to the besieged Iraqi city.
“There’s a remnant there that want to stay there to be a Christian witness.”
“So yes…We should reach out to everyone, but we have to be real about it and as far as who you let come into the country.”
Nmachi Abengowe, 62, a native of Nigeria who attends Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, cited Muslim-on-Christian violence in Africa in defending Trump’s preference for Christian refugees.
“They believe in jihad,” he said of Muslims. “They don’t have peace. Peace comes from Jesus Christ.”
Jim Jacobson, the president of Christian Freedom International, which advocates for persecuted Christians, applauded the executive order and said: “The Trump administration has given hope to persecuted Christians that their cases will finally be considered.”
In 2016, the US admitted almost as many Christian refugees (37,521) as Muslim refugees (38,901), according to the Pew Research Centre.