4 Ways to Respond to President Trump
Yesterday afternoon President Trump signed an executive order that involves significant changes to the US Refugee Admissions Program, including a four month suspension of the program to update refugee vetting procedures. I have seen many different responses to this event, including social media rants, petitions, and vague exhortations to remember what the Bible says about refugees. I haven’t found any of these responses particularly helpful, so here are four practical and measurable ways to respond to President Trump and his executive order concerning refugees.
This may seem obvious or even cliche to you, but as people of faith this is where our response to difficult issues must always start. Begin praying for refugees around the world if you don’t already. Pray that peace would come to their nations, that persecution of minorities would abate, and that they would have wisdom to make tough decisions for their families. Pray for the international organizations providing aid to refugees, for their safety in conflict zones, and for integrity and compassion in their work.
Pray for our government, and especially our new President. Ask that he would make decisions based on the truth, rather than on fear or any other fleeting emotion. Pray that he might personally meet a refugee or someone else in need and that it would open his heart in compassion. Finally, pray for the American Church, that she would search Scripture on this issue and respond accordingly. Pray that we would be characterized by compassion and love for those who are most vulnerable, even if our government is not.
Organizations are still working hard, both in the US and around the world, to serve and support refugees in dire situations. If you truly care about refugees, now is the time to put your money where your mouth is. US organizations who partner with the State Department to resettle refugees will be experiencing huge cuts in federal grants because the number of arrivals for fiscal year 2017 has been lowered from 110,000 to 50,000. There will also be no refugees arriving at all for the next four months.
This means that those employees in charge of finding housing for new refugees, meeting them at the airport, collecting furniture donations for their homes, and setting up their apartments will have almost nothing to do for the next four months. Donating to these organizations may be the difference between someone keeping their job and losing it. Donations are also vital for these organizations to continue programs like job training and English classes that assist refugees who are already here.
Let’s also remember that there are still millions of refugees overseas living in refugee camps or in cities where they have no legal right to work and provide for themselves and their families. Local churches and other organizations work hard to assist these vulnerable individuals. Your financial donations can still make a difference for refugees, even if they are never resettled in the US.
In the last few days I have seen a lot of petitions concerning refugees floating around on the internet. While it may be marginally helpful to let our elected officials know just how many of their constituents support refugee resettlement, it is even more helpful to refugees to tangibly get involved in their lives. Actions speak much louder than words (or our electronic signatures).
There are thousands of refugees living in communities across the country. 30,000 of them arrived in just the last few months and many of them are frightened and devastated by this executive order. For many it means that they may never be reunited with their family members who are waiting overseas to be resettled. For others it may mean encountering more hostility or racism as they go about their daily activities.
Volunteer your time with a local resettlement agency like World Relief or Catholic Charities and get to know a refugee family. Let them know in no uncertain terms that they are welcome here. Have them over for dinner, go to the park so your children can play together, practice English with them. In short, just be a friend. Your electronic signature means nothing if you are not willing to stand in the gap for refugees who have little support from our government.
For some who know without a doubt that God has called them to minister to refugees, the way you respond to President Trump may be by packing your bags. The majority of refugees live in developing nations like Jordan and Lebanon whose governments and social services are overwhelmed by the influx. If President Trump will prevent refugees from coming to you, perhaps it is time you went to them. Heading overseas to minister to refugees as the hands and feet of Jesus (for the short or long term) would send the ultimate message that compassion is more important to Christians than safety.
In the midst of Facebook debates, this executive order, and the ongoing controversy that surrounds refugee resettlement, I hope you will respond to President Trump in one of these four ways, because we can actually make a difference - it just takes a little bit of time, intention, and creativity.