When Injustice Becomes Law, Resistance Becomes a Duty

Many of you may have read the posts I wrote before and after Trump got elected (What if the world should end?, Time to Weep).

I thought I’d share a little of where recent events have taken me subsequently. Specifically, about how the Executive Order issued last week took me to London.

The Executive Order on Visas and Refugees

What this order sets out (full text here):

  • Suspends the United States’ refugee system for a period of 120 days
  • Reduces the cap on the total number of refugees allowed to enter the US in 2017 from 110,000 to just 50,000
  • An indefinite ban on Syrian refugees
  • Preference to accepting Christian refugees from the Middle East over Muslim refugees
  • Anyone arriving from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen – faces a 90-day visa suspension.

Why this is frightening:

  • Issued without consultation of due procedure – the document was not reviewed by DHS, the Justice Department, the State Department, or the Department of Defense, and National Security Council lawyers were prevented from evaluating it. The New York Times have said (here) that Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the agencies tasked with carrying out the policy, were only given a briefing call while Trump was actually signing the order itself. There was little
  • This is not about National Security – This law is based on bigotry and religious discrimination. Whilst the order describes it’s purpose as ‘detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States’, what the order will do has no relation to this supposed goal. The 9/11 attackers were from none of the countries from which people are barred from entering the US – they were from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Neither have any of the perpetrators of subsequent acts of terrorism. As one article puts it – “In the rational pursuit of security objectives, you don’t marginalise your expert security agencies and fail to vet your ideas through a normal inter-agency process.”
  • The Human Cost – the US vetting procedure was already extremely lengthy (for Syrian refugees, 18-24 months – see HONY stories for a human face to this reality). A timely decision can mean life over death. I think it is important to keep the perspective that only 2,000 refugees from Syria have been resettled in the US – of a total of over 4,000,000. The demands on the US in terms of resettling refugees is minimal in contrast to the demands on countries neighbouring Syria (according to Amnesty, Lebanon is home to over a million Syrian refugees now, 1 in 5 people in the country). This week 60,000 visas were revoked, that’s a huge number of people affected.
  • It conflicts with current law – the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, the immediacy of such a blanket ban violates the fifth amendment right to due process, and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.

My Thoughts

Exactly a week before this order was passed, millions marched in the streets standing for freedom and democracy. It is horrifying that such an order could be enacted only seven days later, and painful that it could be enacted on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Too many Jews were turned away as refugees at the US border in 1939, only to later be slaughtered in extermination camps (see this twitter account). Perhaps the parallels do not seem so clear to you – but I see a focus on nationalism, a disdain for human rights, disrespect for intellectuals (e.g. denial of climate change), the identification of enemies/scapegoats, an obsession with national security, and a preoccupation with controlling the mass media. My concern is not premature.

I do not want the death toll of Trump’s administration to start mounting as I stand silently on and watch.

Hesitancy to act, the call to ‘give things a chance’ or to ‘wait and see’, is to put trust in the wisdom and leadership of a human leader. But that is not a trust I am willing to have blindly, especially not when I am all too familiar with the evil of my own heart. The goodness of those in power is not to be taken as a given; only on the goodness of God can we depend. And that often means not standing with the powerful, but instead with the powerless.

As a follower of Jesus, I want always to choose the route of compassion and not that of complicity. To be active in trying to give a voice to the voiceless.

James 1:27 says this:

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The first part of this verse is a reflection of the fact that loving people is our greatest command. A religion that reaches out to those who are outcast is what we are called to. A religion that welcomes the stranger, that feeds and clothes the poor, that chooses grace and mercy over fear and judgement. A religion that is active, a religion that therefore is, sometimes necessarily, political.

The second part of this verse is a reminder to stay alert to the evil we will see, and do see, on this Earth. A reminder not to be swept along in it, but to always walk in truth, walk with boldness, walk with conviction. A reminder of a responsibility to keep being light in dark places.

This week, this verse meant being horrified by the complicity of my government in the injustice of the executive order. Horrified that our PM could say only that, “The United States is responsible for United States policy on refugees” (BBC), that Downing St could issue a statement saying that, “America is a huge important ally. We have to think long term.” (BBC). Horrified of the sort that is enough to get on a train to London.

Because when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. 

Did you know? My Saviour Himself was a refugee.

And so on Monday night, when I went with Lucy to Downing St to protest, I thought of Jesus. My Saviour whose blood was shed for those resident in the White House and 10 Downing Street and for those with no residence whatsoever.

Lucy and I prayed together in the middle of the crowds. Prayed for justice. Prayed for peace. Prayed for courage. Prayed for hope. And we will keep on praying, keep on in pursuing justice, for we believe that justice is restoration.

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Lucy and I will be back again, for whilst it may have just been announced that the executive order has come to a halt (BBC), all is not yet over. There will be many other things to come. Already, there are moves to restrict the reproductive rights of women (re-instating a ban on international abortion counselling), reduce the healthcare provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and undo much of the work to combat climate change (signing executive orders to build two pipelines across America, stating intent to undo the climate action plan, and to stop funding UN climate change work).

John 16:33

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. 

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