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Days after signing an executive order temporarily halting America’s refugee program, President Donald Trump is defending himself against accusations that the ban is aimed at Muslims.

Among his critics is Dr. Samuel Rodriguez. The president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was present for Trump’s inauguration, marking the occasion with a passage from the Bible.

“From the Gospel of Matthew the fifth chapter: God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,” declared Rodriguez.

A Letter to Trump

Two weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, Rodriguez and seven other Christian leaders are urging Mr. Trump to reconsider his refugee policy.

In a letter to the president, the eight said: “The Bible teaches us that each person – including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier – is made in the image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us.”

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, also spoke on Inauguration Day.

He supports the president’s decision, but insists that it is the responsibility of the Church, not the government, to come to the aid of refugees.

“The president’s job is not the same as the job of the Church. As Christians we are clearly taught in the Bible to care for the poor and oppressed,” Graham wrote in a Facebook post.

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order stopping people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

“This Is Not a Ban on Muslims”

That set off a firestorm of criticism against the president’s move, forcing his administration to push back on accusations that the ban targeted Muslims.

“This is not, I repeat, not a ban on Muslims,” insisted John Kelly, secretary of Homeland Security. “The Homeland Security mission is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, our values — and religious liberty is one of our most fundamental and treasured values.”

Still, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says enforcing the travel ban could have been handled better.

“It’s regrettable that there was some confusion on the roll-out of this,” Ryan said. “No one wanted to see people with green cards or special immigrant visas, like translators, get caught up in this.”

Worldwide Protests

In Hong Kong and elsewhere, people took to the streets demonstrating against the travel ban.

“The hateful policies he proposed are totally against the U.S. Constitution, and the tradition of the Americans,” Leung Kwok-hung, a Hong Kong legislator, said.

He joined others outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, chanting “No ban, no wall!” as they vented their anger against what they called “a hateful policy.”

“We support the Americans. If Donald Trump does not correct his racism policies, and hateful policies against religion, he must step down,” Leung said.

In Paris, hundreds also protested near the U.S. Embassy, with some carrying posters demanding, “No hate, no racism, no Trump” and “Make American free again.”

“We really hope that there will be a stop to his order and that all will resume its course,” said one Parisian.

“We Have No Idea About Our Fate”

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 27,000 Syrian refugees were being considered for resettlement to the U.S. just before the executive order was signed.

Feras Zahka was one of them.

“During the U.S. elections, we were afraid because of Trump’s threats against refugees,” said Zahka, who escaped with his family from Syria. “Now we hear he {Trump} is not willing to receive us anymore.”

The 35-year-old Syrian is now stranded in Istanbul, Turkey, facing an uncertain future.

“We have no idea about our fate; we shall just keep waiting,” he said.

Zahka, like so many other refugees from the Middle East, has been working with various groups like the International Organization for Migration and International Catholic Migration Commission to move to the U.S. Friday’s executive order has brought those plans to a screeching halt.

“I have tried to contact ICMC (International Catholic Migration Commission) to ask them about my refugee application’s status since I have friends who started the application procedure at the same time I did, and they are already in the U.S. since September,” Zahka said. “ICMC’s reply was that I have to wait for the security approval.”

Zakha is from Damascus and has been living in Turkey for the last three years. He’s a Christian and is hoping his religious background will help with his asylum case.

“Although I do not like mentioning religious issues, being a Christian makes me lucky and gives me some hope since Trump has made some promises for Christian minorities being accepted for immigration,” Zakha said. “If that does not work either, then my application might change to another country, or I might just keep waiting.”

Meanwhile, 872 people who were previously screened by the Obama administration but prevented from entering under the ban, will now be allowed into the United States this week.

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