US President Donald Trump’s fast-tracking of Christian refugees from the Middle East will be “a trap,” according to Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Primate of the Eastern Catholic Church.

“Every reception policy that discriminates the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East,” he said.

The Patriarch said it gives credence to the propaganda that says Middle Eastern Christian communities are “supported and defended by Western powers”.

He added that “these discriminating choices create and feed tensions with our Muslim fellow citizens. Those who seek help do not need to be divided according to religious labels. And we do not want privileges”.

President Trump has signed an executive order that limits immigration and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries to the US for three months, and acknowledged on Friday (27 Jan) the importance of granting legal refugee status to persecuted Christians.

However, one Christian family of six – including brothers and their wives – from Damascus, who held legal papers gained before Trump took office, were detained at Philadelphia Airport for three hours, before being put back onto a plane to Qatar. They are now back in Damascus, and hope to appeal.

Meanwhile a leading Eastern bishop in the UK has warned against enacting policies that lead to widespread alienation, through denying people who have fled war the right to seek refuge. Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, said that the “generic” application of law and policy “[runs] the risk of violating the same rights they seek to protect”.