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Does Prioritizing Persecuted Christians Help ISIS Reach Its Goal?

02-15-2017
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The Church in the Middle East has an interesting take on President Donald Trump's decision to prioritize persecuted Christian refugees.

"We don't want him to take us," said Habib Ephrem, secretary general of the Gathering of Christians in the Middle East. "That's the wrong message and the wrong policy."

It may surprise you that not all Christians are rejoicing at the prospect of fleeing persecution, but Ephrem says that prioritizing Christian refugees helps ISIS reach its goal of purging the region of different faiths. 

"ISIS expels people from their homeland and then you take them to the West," says Ephrem. "So what? You are doing the policy of ISIS?"

CBN News recently spoke with a Lebanese pastor who asked to remain anonymous for his protection. He echoed the sentiments of Ephrem, encouraging Christians to stay in the region.

"How could the Church have a great future if the Christians are leaving? Of course living in the West or anywhere else would be better than living in Lebanon and the Middle East, but if we leave who's going to be the salt and light?" he asked.

He says the best thing the West could do for Christians in the Middle East would be to invest in creating jobs so that they have a reason to stay and provide for their families. 

"We live in a dark place where lots of evil things are happening and the Christians are trying their best to stay this beacon of light and the evil one is not happy about this. He's going to do his best to stop us, but we believe through prayer and through Who's in us, that's stronger than who's in the world, we can continue doing what we're doing," the pastor said.

Ephrem, meanwhile, is lobbying foreign governments to stop facilitating Christian migration.

The Christian communities in the Middle East are some of the oldest in the world--several of them even mentioned in the Bible. However, the rapid advance of ISIS has pushed thousands from their villages. 

Some of the refugees have stayed close, hoping that when the danger has passed they will be able to return home. Yet other Middle East Christians feel that they have nothing to return to.

"Go back to what?" asked Joseph Youhana, a farmer from Hasakah in northeast Syria. "I watched ISIS blow up our church."

Youhana told TIME that even if he felt safe enough to return, he doesn't have the money to rebuild his house. 

Ephrem says he knows how much he's asking when he encourages Christian refugees to return, even as they're still under attack. But he urges them to resist and fight back against groups like ISIS -- and he asks the West to come along side them as allies.

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