On World Refugee Day, Muslim family recalls warmer welcome in decades past

srebrenicaDURHAM, N.C. (RNS) — Long before President Trump’s travel ban, barring entry to the U.S. from several mostly Muslim countries, and before millions of Syrians and Iraqis fleeing civil war began flooding Europe and trickling into the U.S., there was another wave of Muslim migration to this county.

Almasa Bass was among them.

She and about 130,000 other Bosnian Muslims, known as Bosniaks, settled in the U.S. as a result of the bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Arriving in Washington state as a teenager alongside her parents and her younger sister, Bass started life anew — learning a new language and a new culture and adopting a new national identity.

On World Refugee Day (June 20), established by the United Nations to draw attention to the plights of the world’s 68.5 million displaced people (about 25 million are refugees), Bass is grateful to President Clinton and the U.S. for providing her family refuge and a home.

But she looks around with sadness at the difference 20-plus years have wrought.

“When we came here we felt welcomed. We never felt any vitriol, and to this day I never felt any animosity because of who I am,” said Bass, 41, who now lives in Durham, N.C., with her husband and 8-year-old son.

Trump has slashed the total number of refugees who will be admitted into the U.S., from 110,000 in fiscal 2017 — a bar set by former President Obama — to 45,000 in fiscal 2018, which started in October.

He has pushed for a crackdown on asylum seekers, a reduction in immigrant visas and the construction of a border wall. His “zero-tolerance” policy calls for criminal prosecution of all those caught illegally crossing the border. And in recent weeks he separated parents and children at the border.

It’s part of a larger post-World War II rethinking about refugees and other migrants happening not only in the United States but across Europe, too, said Niklaus Steiner, director of the Center for Global Initiatives at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

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Holy Alliance of Jews, Christians, Muslims Protects Migrants From Trump’s Deportation Efforts

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Last summer, the pastor and rabbi of a church and synagogue that share a building in Denver raised their hands in blessing over the head of Araceli Velasquez and officially welcomed the undocumented immigrant and her family to take sanctuary in their house of worship.

Nearly a year on, Velasquez, her husband and three young sons are still living in the cavernous, 100-year-old building that is home to Temple Micah and Park Hill United Methodist Church.

Velasquez came to the United States to flee the gang violence she had experienced in her native El Salvador, but her asylum request was denied.

The subsequent decision to give her sanctuary is part of a groundswell of grassroots actions by Christians, Jews and Muslims seeking to protect undocumented immigrants in the United States – particularly Latinos – who are facing an unprecedented crackdown under the administration of President Donald Trump to detain and deport them.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HA’ARETZ

European Christian responses to the migrant crisis have been radical and traditional

20180303_blp901ACROSS most of Europe, a majority of people declare some loose attachment to Christianity, while a much smaller percentage actively follow that faith. As a result, churches and their adherents have some influence over European affairs. People expect them to react when the continent is faced with great moral challenges, such as the recent, desperate influx of migrants by sea and land. Ghastly as they have been, the human consequences of that influx would surely have been worse still without the efforts of churches and religious charities to help destitute newcomers. Across Germany, nearly 400 churches have provided shelter for migrants who fear deportation.

But what else should Europe’s Christians do or say? In almost every European country there exist hard-line political movements whose declared aim is to protect the continent’s Christian heritage against alien influences. Religious leaders generally regard these parties as embarrassments or worse.

Even when you move a bit closer to the respectable mainstream, there are as many shades of opinion in European Christianity as there are denominations. That emerged in the glorious diversity of a gathering earlier this week in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, hosted by Dutch and Greek think-tanks (and at which your blogger co-chaired a session), where views ranged from the radical to the traditional. Broadly, their task was to look at Europe’s economic and refugee crisis from a Christian point of view.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ECONOMIST

Yazidis From Iraq Find Welcome Refuge In Nebraska

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A small classroom down a hall at St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Lincoln is a long way from Iraq, but this is where a group of Yazidi women find themselves. They’re part of a class led by volunteer Terri Hensley, a former teacher who’s helping them learn English.

“We are learning consonants and vowels and we are starting right from scratch, so it is a very slow process,” Hensley said.

These woman are mostly from an area in northern Iraq, but Yazidis have also lived in parts of Syria and Turkey. They’re both an ethnic and religious minority and have faced persecution for decades, most recently at the hands of ISIS. They began arriving in Nebraska several decades ago as part of the refugee resettlement process.

Gulie Khalaf is Yazidi and arrived in the U.S. from Syria in 1998. She moved from Atlanta to Buffalo and then to Lincoln, a place where it seems many Yazidi refugees end up. There are now more than 2,000 here.

“Even though the resettlement office settles Yazidis elsewhere, they end up a year later or even six months later, giving up whatever they have collected and they end up coming to live here in Nebraska,” Khalaf said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NETNEBRASKA.ORG

Most refugees who enter the U.S. as religious minorities are Christians

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A little over a third of the refugees who were admitted into the United States in fiscal 2016 (37%) were religious minorities in their home countries. Of those, 61% were Christians, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.

Muslims, the next largest group, made up 22% of the religious minority refugees who were admitted to the U.S. Other, smaller world religions and Hindus made up the bulk of the remaining religious minority refugees (9% and 6%, respectively).

The analysis comes as Donald Trump’s administration has announced it will give priority to religious minorities who apply for refugee status in the U.S. Trump himself has said that Christians will be given preference

The landscape is different when it comes to the two-thirds of refugees who entered the U.S. as religious majorities in fiscal 2016. Six-in-ten of these refugees (60%) were Muslim and 35% were Christian. Buddhists made up 6% of these refugees, coming mostly from Burma (Myanmar) and Bhutan.

The U.S. admitted 85,000 refugees in 2016. Almost all came from these 10 countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo (19%), Syria (15%), Burma (15%), Iraq (12%), Somalia (11%), Bhutan (7%), Iran (4%), Afghanistan (3%), Ukraine (3%) and Eritrea (2%).

Christians are a religious majority in three of these 10 countries. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo – from which the U.S. accepted the largest number of refugees (over 16,000) in 2016 – is a predominantly Christian nation, split almost evenly between Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians. The vast majority (93%) of refugees accepted from that country were of these Christian denominations. Similarly, 61% of refugees coming to the U.S. from Eritrea in 2016 were Orthodox Christians, the majority religious group.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

Muslim justice: A Christian Imperative for the Trump Years

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Our Muslim siblings have been under attack this week. While Muslim discrimination is not new, it’s taking more emboldened forms than ever before in the Trump era.

Last Friday, it came in the form of a travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries. On Tuesday, we learned that “extreme vetting” for some travelers from Muslim-majority countries would include prying into their social media accounts and phone records. On Wednesday, Reuters revealedthat the Trump administration would change the previously named “Countering Violent Extremism” program to “Countering Islamic Extremism,” dropping any focus on other extremist groups like white supremacists.

This is a clarion call for Christian action. If we don’t act now in solidarity with our Muslim siblings, we’ve got no legitimate reason to claim we are followers of Jesus, a man executed by the state for his own supposed “religious extremism.”

We’ve seen the institutionalization of religious bigotry into public policy before. Baptists were even subject to this violence in the past: Thomas Helwys, the founder of the Baptist way of faith, died in the King’s Newgate Prison in 1616 for his perspectives on religious liberty. Roger Williams, the progenitor of Baptists in America, was banished to the wilderness in 1635 where he founded Providence — this for his “dangerous opinions” (e.g., abolitionism, fair treatment of Native people, religious liberty).

FULL ARTICLE FROM BAPTIST NEWS

Christian Leaders Nearly Unanimous in Opposing Trump’s Muslim Ban

170129_pol_notnormalban-png-crop-promo-xlarge2When the Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump stated in December 2015 that the United States should close its borders to all Muslims, the reaction from American Christian leaders was admirably swift. Mainline Protestant clergy, prominent evangelicals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops all lambasted it. “Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty should denounce this reckless, demagogic rhetoric,” Southern Baptist Convention policy head Russell Moore wrote soon afterward. “A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies.” The day after Trump proposed his policy, the governor of Indiana, one evangelical Catholic named Mike Pence, tweeted that “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.”

Thirteen months later, Trump is president, and his calls to ban Muslims are making their way into law. Trump signed an executive order Friday that suspends immigration for at least 90 day from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—all predominantly Muslim countries. The order also bans all refugees for at least 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. When the ban ends, the order allows the U.S. government to prioritize applications based on the refugees’ religion. As my colleague Jim Newell explains:

Once refugee admissions resume, the government will “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” In other words, Trump has instructed the government to use religion as a means of prioritizing the processing of refugee applications. This, by Trump’s own admission, prioritizes Christians over Muslims coming from countries like Iraq or Yemen or Syria—if any Syrians are ever allowed—or other horrific lands from which someone might seek refuge. It effectively discriminates against Muslims on the basis of their religion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLATE