'Stand together for peace'
A Baptist church in London invited faith and community leaders to “stand together for peace” in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration curbs and the attack on a mosque in Canada
Yiewsley Baptist Church in Hillingdon encouraged imams, rabbis, priests, pastors, chaplains and other faith and community leaders to gather at the church on 2 Feb.
'We hope to demonstrate that although we hold to different faiths we are united in our striving for peace and opposition to tyranny and discrimination,’ said minister the Revd Rich Blake-Lobb, ahead of the meeting.
In the controversial executive order, the US President imposed a temporary travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim majority countries.
The same weekend, six people were killed by a gunman at a mosque in Quebec City. Elsewhere, a mosque in Texas was destroyed by fire just hours after the executive order - prompting Americans to donate $800,000 to rebuild it.
In his invitation letter, Rich explained: ‘I believe we should come together to highlight our unity… As a symbol of solidarity with our Muslim neighbours, to build relationships with one another and create bridges between our different faiths.’
His hopes for the gathering on Thursday are threefold:
We show that we are a welcoming and caring community
We would have a public demonstration of unity
We will be able to issue a joint public statement of our unity
Referring to Mr Trump’s ‘discriminatory’ executive orders, Rich said he was ‘embarrassed and ashamed of the things that are being said in the name of the religion that I care for deeply.’
‘I and many of my fellow evangelical Christian's do not agree with President Trump or with those who support him.’
The seven countries affected by the ban are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. They were not specifically named in the executive order, but were referenced by their inclusion in 2015 legislation highlighting nations of particular concern.
The order also explicitly bans refugees from Syria. Persecuted religious minorities will be prioritised when the admission of refugees commences.
There has been much UK opposition. A petition calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to cancel Mr Trump’s planned state visit to the UK had gathered more than 1.5million signatures. There were also protests in dozens of towns and cities on Monday night (30 January). In the US the Interfaith Immigration Coalition released a letter supporting refugee resettlement, signed by more than 2,000 faith leaders.
A number of Christian charities have issued statements commenting on Mr Trump’s immigration crackdown.
Lisa Pearce, CEO Open Doors UK and Ireland
‘President Trump rightly recognises the incredible rise in persecution of Christians. Appointing key religious freedom positions in the State Department within the first 100 days of the administration, and working toward religious freedom accountability with key trading partners such as India, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, all on the Open Doors World Watch List of top persecutors, would be a great start.
‘Expediting refugee entry for those intentionally targeted by ISIS, like the Yazidis and Christians and some Muslim groups, seems appropriate.
‘However, prioritising one religion over another only exacerbates the already severe worldwide trend of religious persecution. We encourage a need-based approach that treats all faiths equally and works toward the comprehensive strengthening of religious freedom around the world.’
Christian Aid warned that a rejection of refugees, whatever their faith, is ‘a rejection of Christian values’. Tom Viita, Head of Advocacy, said,
‘Six decades ago we came together to establish international laws to avoid repeating the horrors experienced by millions of people during the first two world wars. President Trump is now effectively ripping up the principle that every person, irrespective of their faith or nationality, has the right to seek protection and sanctuary.
‘World leaders and ordinary people need to take a stand against Trump’s attempts to destroy hard won freedoms and human rights.
‘President Trump is not alone in his abhorrent attitude towards refugees. We are seeing the normalisation of an increasingly hostile rhetoric towards people whose suffering is, frankly, beyond what most of us can imagine.
‘More than eleven million people from Syria alone have been displaced from their homes, owing to the bloodshed of the six-year civil war in the country. The reality is that most Syrian refugees are hosted in, and by, developing countries. Rich nations, including the UK and the US, must not turn a blind eye to people in desperate need. Resettlement of refugees is part of the path to peace.’