News Headlines > Trump promise to prioritise Christian refugees will fuel tension, warns Iraqi Patriarch

31 January 2017 | by Catholic News Service , Rose Gamble

Trump promise to prioritise Christian refugees will fuel tension, warns Iraqi Patriarch

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Follow Pope Francis' example and welcome Christians and Muslim refugees without distinction, says Archbishop

President Donald Trump's intention to discriminate in favour of Christian refugees will do more harm than good to Christians in the Middle East, a leading Iraqi patriarch is warning.

The president should instead follow the example of Pope Francis and welcome Christian and Muslim refugees without distinction, Archbishop Louis Sako of Iraq, who is the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, has said.

Trump's "fast track" option for Christian refugees to enter the US while refusing entrance to migrants from seven countries with a Muslim majority is "a trap for Christians in the Middle East", he added.

"Every reception policy that discriminates the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East," explained Archbishop Sako.

Patriarch Sako said any preferential treatment based on religion provides the kind of arguments used by those who propagate "propaganda and prejudice that attack native Christian communities of the Middle East as 'foreign bodies'" or as groups that are "supported and defended by Western powers."

"These discriminating choices create and feed tensions with our Muslim fellow citizens. Those who seek help do not need to be divided according to religious labels. And we do not want privileges. This is what the gospel teaches, and what Pope Francis pointed out, who welcomed refugees in Rome who fled from the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims without distinction," he told Agenzia Fides, the news agency of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

Trump's controversial executive order has temporarily stopped all refugees from entering the US and migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries while the screening process is reviewed.

The order says that once the total ban comes to an end, refugees who claim religious persecution should be prioritised.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas, also warned that discriminating in favour of Christians "might revive some of these animosities and might even pit Christians against Muslims, and that might generate contrary action from the Muslims against Christians".

He told Catholic News Service: "This is a time when we don't want to add to the prejudice, the biases and even discriminatory attitudes evolving in the world."

Emphasising that he had not read the text of the executive action, but only news reports, the Philippine cardinal said announcing a ban being applied to specific countries was akin to "labelling them - and the migrants coming from those countries - as possible threats to a country. I think it is quite a generalization that needs to be justified."

Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, of the Vatican's new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told the Catholic News Service in Rome that Christians are asked to reflect on the Good Samaritan and not to "react and act as if the plight of migrants and refugees is none of our business".

Richer countries should not only welcome those who are fleeing, they "can do much more to help improve security and living, working, education and health opportunities in the refugee - and migrant - producing countries," he said in a written statement.

More effort should be put into peacemaking and more resources dedicated to "helpful foreign aid."

"The role of government is to enact its people's values, keeping different factors in balance. National security is important, but always in balance with human security, which includes values like openness, solidarity, hope for the future," the Jesuit priest said.

"The bottom line," he said "is the centrality and dignity of the human person, where you cannot favour 'us' and 'them,' citizens over others."


PICTURE: Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad is seen at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ainkawa, Iraq on 25 October 2016


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