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Protesting Trump's travel ban isn't enough, just ask Martin Luther King

It's popular to criticise Trump at the moment, but Christians must go further says Joshua Parikh

There’s a lot of upset at the moment about Trump's decision to ban those from seven Muslim majority nations from entering the USA. As I look down my Facebook newsfeed, there is very little else being talked about.

But how would Jesus respond to Trump’s executive order? One clue comes from a story Jesus told. In conversation with a religious leader, Jesus told the story of one left bleeding and half dead by the wayside of the Jericho road. While the religious leaders left him be, the despised Samaritan shows him love and takes him on (see Luke 10 for the full story).

The familiarity of these words can be a misnomer - in their context, they were enormously shocking, as the Samaritans and Jews were far from friendly, and had violent disputes throughout the first century.

The placing of the parable among the Jericho Road would have evoked images of danger and fear - as Martin Luther King said, "Its many sudden curves made the road conducive for ambushing and exposed the traveller to unforeseen attack. The road came to be known as the Bloody Pass." And despite the risks he faced, the Samaritan moves out and sees the needs of the beaten one along the wayside - valuing the injured man's needs above his own.

Martin Luther King’s commentary is invaluable, particularly from one who embodied courageous sacrifice: "So I can imagine that the first question which the Priest and the Levite asked was 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' Then the Good Samaritan came by, and by the very nature of his concern reversed the question 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'"

As we are called to this dangerous altruism, the move to cut back refugees and temporarily ban them seems hugely immoral.

Other Christians might argue that while love is important we are also called to wisdom (Matthew 10:16). The order is designed to deal with national security. But the evidence is strongly suggestive that the executive order is not wise and demonstrates a deep lack of thought in preparation. The Head of Human Rights Watch’s Refugee Rights Programme suggests that this order has "no basis in reality", given the extensive vetting already going on and the minimal risk of refugees regardless; and journalist and academic Benjamin Wittes rails against the incompetence of the order, with poor design, unnecessary heavy-handedness a bizarre lack of routine departmental vetting and resultant unclarity.

I also worry that what is meant by wisdom here may be entirely selfish - worrying only about the effects that this may have for us, and ignoring the intense suffering that refugees have already undergone and continue to undergo. Please don’t let wisdom be an excuse for selfishness. After all, many may have railed against the foolishness that the Samaritan showed in going to the Jericho roadside.

So how should Christians respond to Trump's order? I think protest and lament are entirely appropriate, and I was glad to see the hundreds who protested in my city of Oxford, as well as the 25,000 who turned up to protest at Downing Street last night. 

That said, it's relatively easy to show anger towards Trump right now. He's pretty darn unpopular, and railing against him is often very popular. But I worry that we could settle for a pursuit of justice conformed to the pattern of this world.

Is our love for refugees contained to these couple of days? Will we move on - forgetting that less than 1% of refugees are resettled and ignoring that the UK continues to take a pitiful number of refugees while Lebanon takes 1.5 million refugees?

Will we care for those who we are in direct contact with day to day, with a radical self-sacrificial love? 

We must not settle for momentary sparks of care, and then return to comfortable and greedy lives

Will we exercise wisdom and care when taking to social media to give our own political commentary? Will we be charitable to those we disagree with? Will we base our arguments on nothing but the truth?

Will we give our money, consumer habits, time and effort to other causes of importance - causes which don't capture international imaginations and aren’t tweeted about, but still matter intensely?

Take the Yemen crisis, where 18 million people are in need of severe humanitarian assistance, according to monitoring group ACAPS. Or the crisis in Burma, where Rohingya Muslims are slaughtered and raped by the Burmese Army. Or children starving in Malawi and Nigeria, girls enslaved in prostitution in Mumbai, Falun Gong Practitioners slaughtered for organs in China, Christians brutally murdered, tortured and detained in North Korea - and all other places where the suffering is so deep and intense.

I don’t write this to belittle the amazing work and love that many are showing currently. But we must not settle for momentary sparks of care, and then return to comfortable and greedy lives, where we remain apathetic to the vast swathes of suffering in this world. Instead we must endeavour to search for those along the Jericho Road and embody that dangerous love - living out a relentless pursuit of justice to care for those in extreme need and to glorify the living, loving and awesome God, "in whom we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

Joshua Parikh is a student studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University

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