President Donald Trump's decision to prioritize Christian refugees over Muslims will only hurt - and not help - those persecuted for their faith in the Middle East, a leading Christian patriarch has warned.
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, primate of the Eastern Catholic Church told Agenzia Fides, the news agency of the Vatican, that he believes the executive order a "trap" that will hurt Christians more than help them.
"Every reception policy that discriminates the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East," said Sako.
He argued that favoring Christians over Muslims only creates hostility between the two groups: "These discriminating choices create and feed tensions with our Muslim fellow citizens. Those who seek help do not need to be divided according to religious labels. And we do not want privileges. This is what the gospel teaches, and what Pope Francis pointed out, who welcomed refugees in Rome who fled from the Middle East, both Christians and Muslims without distinction," Sako said.
President Trump's executive order has for 90 days stopped all refugees from entering the US and migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries while the screening process is reviewed. The order says that once the total ban comes to an end, refugees who claim religious persecution should be prioritized.
In an interview last week with CBN, Trump specifically said he sees Christians as a priority because "they've been horribly treated."
"If you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, at least very, very tough, to get in the United States. If you were a Muslim, you could come in. But if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible," Trump said.
Chawkat Moucarry, World Vision's director for interfaith relations, told Christianity Today that it's important for Christians and Muslims to peacefully live alongside one another and expressed concern that the order will encourage Christians to migrate.
"This executive order has created a new atmosphere very hostile to people in the region," he said. "Unwritten rules seem to be implemented as a result."
He added, "It is important for Christians to live in Muslim countries. Because through them, Muslims will learn to accept the other. We must learn this principle in order to have a democratic society.
"Extremists say there is only one way to think or believe," Moucarry continued. "So keeping Christians in the area is an indirect way to counter extremism and learn that diversity is good."