The world’s religious leaders have mixed reactions to a Trump presidency.
In the year and half or so that political campaigns for the recent presidential elections commenced, the American public was brought through a mental and emotional roller coaster. The range of experience throughout the elections included the exchange of heated, and sometimes downright nasty words, repartee that turned from civil to deeply unpleasant, and the discovery of sordid details about the candidates, exposing them in personal and professional scandals that most people would not expect them to bounce back from.
Now that the elections are over and America has made a decision, it really has just begun, with the challenge of closing the deep political divide that has surfaced in this election and somehow surging forward as a nation united in the common ideals of freedom and democracy. Religious issues were a big part of the elections, and naturally, President-elect Donald Trump’s victory drew a myriad of reactions from religious leaders and personalities. How did the religious world take to the unexpected turnout that left many stunned, whether they supported Trump or not?
According to the Washington Post, Pope Francis tweeted on the morning after election night, mentioning God’s mercy and love, while not directly commenting on the results of the elections. “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that he would “pray that God enlightens him and supports him in the service of his country of course, but also in the service of wellbeing and peace in the world.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins expressed support for Trump on Twitter, while Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention said that the campaigns were both “demoralizing and even traumatizing” for most people. He called for prayer then congratulated Trump, despite being critical of him for most of election season.
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said that generally the evangelical vote had been largely taken for granted, while Trump made it the “centerpiece of his campaign.” He asserted, “as a result, he and like-minded candidates were richly rewarded with a huge faith-based vote.” According to Religion News Service, 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again again Christians voted for Trump.
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership conference, called the election turnout “Brexit 2.0.” He declared, “now that the presidential election is finally behind us, our nation must put partisan politics and divisive rhetoric behind us as well.”
From the other end of the spectrum, Muslim voters professed more of wary tone, a response to Trump’s largely anti-Muslim rhetoric during his campaign. However, Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, said that Muslims weren’t that enthusiastic about Clinton either. “It’s not like they’re excited about the candidates. You contrast someone who literally said, “We’re dancing on rooftops [after Sept. 11], we need to ban people from your countries of origin,’ to a candidate who, regretfully, seems to have a securitized understanding of American Muslims ― it’s not the same thing.” Berry also said she was disturbed that millions supported Trump’s message. “I didn’t expect it to be this close,” she said. “That people accept this kind of racism, Islamophobia, hatred against the other ― Latinos, blacks, Muslims ― it’s really scary.”
Saba Ahmed, leader of the Republican Muslim Coalition expressed excitement over Trump’s victory. “The Republican Muslim Coalition is looking forward to working with president Trump.” Speaking in a more optimistic tone, she said that Muslims should be “more proactive and have strategic outreach to the Republicans,” she said. “We cannot afford to remain partisan and support only the Democratic Party.”
On a more cautious note, Moussa ElBayoumi, who heads the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) branch in the state of Kansas, called on Trump to bestow respect upon the United States constitution. She said if Trump failed perform his duties while still respecting everyone no matter what race, religion or national background they were, “CAIR would stand ready to defend the civil liberties of all American citizens, including Muslim Americans.”
On the Buddhist front, Norman Fischer, teacher at Everyday Zen Foundation, stated: “For those older among us who hold liberal and progressive political views, let’s not forget we survived Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. It wasn’t pleasant but we survived. We will survive Trump.” Buddhist teacher Roshi Pat Enkyo O’ Hara was equally optimistic. “This we must do, listen carefully, and while listening, we must move with determination to organize, to mobilize, and to find new ways to create change in civil rights, climate change, media ethics, and to inform and enlighten all the people, so that we can in fact relieve suffering and care for this planet, these peoples, all of us.”
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