Recently I interviewed many missionaries on the muslim ban. They unanimously denounced it.
These Christian missionaries work in Muslim countries and contexts and spoke under the condition of anonymity. After the first few, their network took over, and they forwarded on my questions to friends and acquaintances. I couldn’t include them all. I interviewed across denominations. Conservative and liberal. Male and female. Rich and poor. Famous and obscure. White and brown people alike with former lives in Islam, Atheism, and so on. Some attended the national prayer breakfast. Others will never have a biography written about their life, but they remain faithful in their work among Muslims, despite Mr. Trump’s order.
One said, “it’s stupid.”
Another said, “Trump’s decision affects some immigrants, some Muslims and some nations. But it FEELS like it affects every immigrant, every Muslim, and every Muslim and Middle Eastern nation. His attempt to be selective doesn’t affect the feelings of those more broadly listed above. That feeling by hundreds of millions of people (actually it affects a couple billion people) is a dangerous thing for American security at home and abroad. It will prove to be exactly counter to the desired goal. I could also say something about Jesus being a refugee or the long list of ‘love your enemies’ and ‘be kind to the foreigners’ passages, but my guess is that others will say that.”
They did. A minority, whose family and friends are affected by some of Trump’s other policies, assembled for us a comprehensive list of scriptures relating to refugees and aliens and strangers.
Some had children attending Muslim majority schools. They found themselves in the midst of a kind of reverse hate speech and getting their children to respond in love both to bitter Muslims and to bitter conservative white folk proved difficult, but protesting at the airport for the first round of travel bans helped: it’s hard for children to hate when surrounded by people chanting, “Love trumps hate!”
Others focused on refugee friends, on how fellow human beings fear for their lives. Non-American missionaries found it egregious that American Christians would ever support such an inhospitable bill, describing it as “shameful” and comparing against the hospitality exemplified by Middle Eastern cultures. Still others pointed to how evangelical pastors from all 50 states came out against the travel ban and in favor of supporting refugees.
The most sobering response came from a woman who spent years evangelizing the Taliban:
I explained the recent executive order by the president in the U.S. to ‘Assia,’ a former Muslim from the middle east. She knows scripture well, is deeply in love with Jesus. I turned down the radio and explained my distress over American Christians supporting the idea of keeping refugees out of their country for fear of terrorists coming into America by posing as people fleeing violence.
“They’re not really Christians, then,” she said.
I sat silent. I come from a very ‘don’t judge me’ culture. Her words stung.
She saw the wideness of my eyes and quoted scripture in her native tongue, the tongue I have been learning for the past six years. ‘I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Jesus’ words were familiar, but the word in her gospel of Matthew was not ‘stranger,’ but the very literal word for refugee, ‘musafir.’
“How can a Christian hear this scripture and do these things? They are disobeying Jesus completely,” she said.
Later she added:
American Christians have ingested the idea that since we worship without government persecution that this is something we must continue to ‘fight for.’ This belief has so permeated American Christian culture that it’s woven into the very fabric of the American Christian faith itself. ‘Without freedom to worship, we will have no freedom at all.’ Freedom has become our God, and we will take up arms against anything that threatens it, even Jesus Himself. Jesus did not hide that the world would persecute us, torture us, and kill us because of his name. Yet, we buy into the lie that creating our own kingdom of safety and freedom will allow us to evade the persecution he promised in Matthew 10. Many of us have indeed been spared of it. We have escaped persecution at the expense of ignoring Jesus’ call to follow Him into the unknown places that are dark and oppressive. We have built walls rather than carry His light into the darkness.
Taken together, these missionaries’ responses call us to do what they and Jesus do and did: to invite the stranger, the poor, the prisoner, the hungry, the immigrant, the enemy, the hated, and the oddball neighbor over for dinner.
Read the full interview here.