One of Scotland's top religious leaders has said he is "horrified" by President Donald Trump's refugee travel ban and said the Bible calls on Christians to "live beyond hatred and fear" and welcome the poor and oppressed - regardless of religion.
In a statement shared over the weekend, the Right Rev Dr Russell Bar, Moderator of the Church of Scotland's General Assembly, criticized Trump's controversial decision to sign an executive order suspending the admission of refugees from seven countries to the US for the next four months and said protests against the ban had his 'full support'.
"History is littered with instances in which human distrust, xenophobia, and discrimination has sewn hatred and conflict; our own desire for self-preservation taken at the exclusion of others," he said in a statement. "And yet throughout history the Bible has called Christians to live beyond hatred and fear, demonstrating a radical hospitality where the stranger finds welcome and refuge is provided for those who are oppressed."
He continued: "As for us, it is vitally important that the Church of Scotland shines a light on this injustice, that we pray for all those concerned, and that we act to make our own governments aware of Christ's call to care for others, not just ourselves and our own."
The order, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States", affects citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 99% of the nearly 12,600 Syrians granted refugee status last year were Muslims, and less than 1% were Christian.
The White House has insisted the policy will protect against Islamic extremism and terrorism; however, critics say it unfairly targets Muslims, as Trump has vowed to give priority to persecuted Christians as refugees.
Rev. Scott Arbeiter, the president of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of National Association of Evangelicals which has helped resettle thousands of Muslim refugees, said his group has been collecting signatures from evangelical Christians who oppose the ban. He told the New York Times: "We have no evidence that would support a belief that the Obama administration was discriminating against Christian populations.
He added that group would resist: "any measure that would discriminate against the most vulnerable people in the world based on ethnicity, country of origin, religion, gender or gender identity. Our commitment is to serve vulnerable people without regard to those factors, or any others."
However, other religious leaders have applauded the executive order. Franklin Graham, evangelical pastor and president of international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, argued that Trump's attempt to protect America from harm is "not a Bible issue."
"It's not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come," Graham said in an interview with the Huffington Post.
"We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country, and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws," he added. "Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful."
Graham said despite the length of the process for vetting refugees, experience has shown it needs to be better.
Jim Jacobson, the president of Christian Freedom International, which advocates for persecuted Christians, also applauded the move, saying, "The Trump administration has given hope to persecuted Christians that their cases will finally be considered."