By Miriam Raftery
File photo: Prayer vigil for Iraqi Christians in El Cajon
January 28, 2017 (El Cajon) – President Donald Trump’s sweeping order restricting refugees from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. has been greeted with optimism by some in San Diego’s Chaldean Christian community, since Trump has stated on a Christian broadcasting station that he would give priority to persecuted Christians, after a tougher vetting process is implemented.
Mark Arabo, president of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation in San Diego, voices hope that the order could help save lives of Christians facing death at the hands of ISIS in the Middle East. An estimated 400,000 Iraqi Christians have fled Iraq and another 80,000 have been killed or tortured, some by crucifixion and beheadings
Some have suggested Trump's order could be unconstitutioal for discriminating against Muslims.
Arabo, while hopeful to get help for persecuted Christians, also expressed a wish for the order to be expanded to protect other people persecuted by ISIS, regardless of their faiths.
Trump's order bars all refugees from 11 mostly Muslim nations, including Iraq, for 120 days. But Trump, in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network Friday, said he wants to help Christians fleeing ISIS. Asked he he would prioritize persecuted Christians from the Middle East for admission as refugees, he responded, “Yes.” Trump said it has been harder for Christians persecuted and risking slaughter by ISIS to gain entry to the U.S. than for Muslims, which he called “very, very unfair…So we are going to help them.”
“We applaud this shift in policy towards the persecution of Christians in the Middle East,” Arabo says. “The Trump Administration seems to be recognizing the mass toll that has been taking place on the minority Christian population in the Middle East over the years. For us to end this genocide, we needed to expedite processing for the religious minorities of the Middle East. “ He adds, that the MHF believes that “humanity is a bipartisan issue.”
The Minority Humanitarian Foundation has been a vocal advocate for streamlining processing for religious minorities since the rise of ISIS and was successful in getting former Secretary of State John Kerry to acknowledge a “genocide” taking place. Trump’s decision comes on the heels of years of advocacy from MHF, and the entirety of the Chaldean Christian community in San Diego.
In recent years, thousansd of Iraqi Christians in El Cajon have held rallies and prayer vigils, pleading for help to save their relatives and friends. Prominent leaders of multiple faiths as well as Mayor Bill Wells have joined local Chaldeans in a prayer vigil. Local Chaldean church members have raised money to help displaced refugees and newly arrived refugee families. Though not everyone supports bringing more refugees to East County, where resources have been stretched thin, some hold out hope that they may finally be reunited with family members now in refugee camps or elsewhere.
In an exclusive interview with East County Magazine, Arabo voiced hope that Chaldean Christians--and all victims of ISIS facing religious persecution--could be spared from the ban on refugees from 11 nations imposed by Trump’s executive order issued Friday.
He called on the President to take bold action next.
“In 1975, President Ford airlifted 150,000 Vietnamese during the fall of Saigon. In the 1990s, President Clinton stopped ethnic cleansing by saving innocent Muslims in Bosnia. Now is a moment for President Trump to be very presidential and be inspired by Presidents Ford and Clinton to rescue persecuted people regardless of whether they are Christian, Muslim or Yazidi….We’re hoping for a glimmer of light amid the whirlwind,” he said of Trump’s flurry of actions that have sent shockwaves around the world.
Arabo concludes, “This is a moment to leave the campaign rhetoric and polarization of words and actions, and really be a president for all Americans.”