Refugee ban unchristian, says Indian American evangelist
By ARGHESE K. GEORGE
Sam George works among Europe’s West Asian refugees, many of whom are reportedly converting to Christianity.
Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in large numbers but hundreds of their leaders have opposed the temporary ban on refugees imposed by the President. Mr. Trump has promised to give priority to Christians when he reopens the refugee admissions programme.
Many evangelical leaders believe that turning your back to human suffering is unchristian, while many see in the humanitarian crisis an opportunity for evangelism among Muslims – who are reportedly converting to Christianity in large numbers in Europe.
Sam George, Chicago-based Indian American evangelist who has been working among the West Asian refugees in Europe, says people escaping the violence perpetrated in the name of their own faith are increasingly turning to Christianity. Mr. George spent several months last year preaching to refugees in 12 cities across six European countries. “They have reached Europe walking for days through the desert, crossing the seas, losing many loved ones on the way, and enduring unspeakable violence. We have no disrespect for Islam, but we tell them that we are inspired by Christ, when we meet them,” Mr. George, who will be returning to refugee camps in April, said. He says many people have converted to Christianity, but doesn’t have exact numbers.
To them, Jesus was a refugee
Mr. George is part of an evangelical stream that believes “Jesus was a Refugee,” a thought spurred by Joan E. Taylor, Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London, in a September 2015 blog. The meme gained traction as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees reaching Europe caused hostile reactions in host countries. “Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with infant Jesus to escape death. We retell this story to refugees,” Mr. George said.
Mr. Trump’s restrictions on refugees has ticked off a fresh debate on how its squares with Christianity.
“Before you head to church today, remember to thank God for his son, Jesus a refugee who fled to Egypt,” Al Sharpton, an influential African American pastor and TV anchor, tweeted last Sunday, enraging Trump supporters. Fox News and Breitbart have questioned the claim, as have numerous other Christian extremist platforms.
‘They have to be sheltered’
“We strongly oppose the refugee ban. Those who fleeing violence, whether they are Christian or Muslim, have to be welcomed and sheltered,” Mr. George, who leads the outreach to diasporas for the Lausanne Movement — a global network of evangelical leaders — says. World Relief, a humanitarian outfit affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals, has received 12,000 signatures from evangelicals, opposing the ban. “Any limitation against any vulnerable population is to fly in the face of human dignity, of people made in the image of God,” it said.
A number of evangelical leaders are in support of the ban, however. Franklin Graham – son of Billy Graham, who founded the Lausanne Movement – defended Mr. Trump’s decision. “It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue,” he said.
First posted on The hindu