There are events that happen in our lives that test our patience, emotions, and ultimately, our faith and trust in the Lord. One such event includes President Donald Trump’s executive order written on January 27. This order has stopped refugees from coming to the United States for the next four months and has banned travelers from countries including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Lybia, and Somalia for the next three months. It has prevented students from returning to school, sons and daughters from being able to visit their mothers and fathers, and ultimately, those who fear for their lives from being able to find a safe haven.
President Trump has also discussed how Christian refugees in particular will be given priority to return or come to the United States. However, Christian leaders have reacted in such a way that has truly exemplified what it means to be a Christian. According to a CNN article, Scott Arbeiter, the president of World Relief, which is a part of the National Association of Evangelicals, has spoken against this kind of prioritization. Arbeiter, along with several leaders in the Christian community, including the President of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the Ambassador of The Wesleyan Church, and the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, have written a letter to President Trump and Vice President Pence expressing their concern about the new executive order, according to a recent article by Politico.
Christian religion and history are rife with themes of persecution and the search for refuge. There is an entire chapter in the Bible that describes the oppression of the Jews in Egypt and their journey for a new home. Mary and Joseph struggled to find a shelter where Jesus could be born. In the Roman empire, under Marcus Aurelius, Christians were blamed for natural disasters and for being a general threat to others. In 296, anti-Christian propaganda and influence from an anti-Christian leader led to Diocletian’s rule being marked by the destruction of churches, the ban of Christian services, and the seizure and destruction of the Scriptures. Today, Muslims are being killed in their own mosques, being told they cannot pray or practice their religion in certain places, and having their Qur’an horribly vandalized or destroyed by others. It is precisely because of our own history with persecution that it is our responsibility to protect and help others facing such discrimination, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or country of origin.
The Lord himself has even spoken on the topic of refugees. He told Moses, after the Jews had left Egypt, “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God,” (Leviticus 24:23). Beyond just accepting those outside of the United States, it is even more clearly stated to show them love. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 reads, “For the Lord your God … loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Today, Islamophobia is prevalent to such an extent that it allows for acceptance of measures like the recent executive order. This kind of propaganda-inspired fear is incredibly dangerous. It is the kind of fear that led to the Holocaust. It is the kind of fear that enabled the construction of internment camps within the United States for Japanese-Americans like my own grandmother at age 17. It is the kind of fear that repeats itself, paralyzes action, represses sympathy, and muddles reason. And yet, as cliché as it may sound, it is the kind of fear that can be overcome simply by love that turns a blind eye to the propaganda, stereotypes, and alarmist attitudes that can so easily pervade our society. “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:18-19).
It is this kind of love that has already inspired selfless action by others: lawyers, politicians, and activists alike. The hope in such a seemingly hopeless situation has been found in the carrying out of verses like these: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:8).
Now is the time to speak up if you are fortunate enough to be able to do so. It is time that we all showed refugees kindness, empathy, and generosity. It is time that we reflect the kind of love that God gives us constantly, without first testing to see whether or not we deserve it.
For those of you who are able to help in any way, through prayer or action, please do so with diligence, persistence, and passion. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
For those of you who may be reading this and have been affected by this executive order, know that you are in the hearts, prayers, and minds of many. Borders, fears, and bans cannot and will not stop us from standing with you.
Marinna Okawa ’20 is a freshman living in Thayer Hall.