Why Trump Abandoning Kurds Could Cost Him the Support of Evangelical Christians

Pastors from the Las Vegas area pray with Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential candidate, during a visit to the International Church of Las Vegas on 5 October 2016.
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Evangelical Christian voters have been among Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic and reliable supporters. Trump’s recent rejection of asylum seekers and cuts to domestic food assistance programs have not stopped followers of Christ from flocking to the president.

A great schism, however, may finally be at hand. In drips that have become a gush, evangelical leaders this week have sharply criticized Trump’s decision to stand down US forces in northern Syria, warning that Turkey’s invasion of the region threatens America’s longstanding Kurdish allies and vulnerable Christian communities.

“It is very possible that the American withdrawal from the region will lead to the extinction of Christianity from the region,” Ashty Bahro, former director of the Evangelical Alliance of Kurdistan, told the Christianity Today news outlet.

“An invasion by Turkey into NE Syria would pose a grave threat to the region’s Kurds and Christians, endangering the prospects of true religious freedom in the Middle East,” tweeted the evangelical leader Tony Perkins, a Trump adviser.

The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) founder, Pat Robertson, described even more grave stakes in a broadcast on Monday.

“I believe … the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,” Robertson said.

Despite warnings from domestic and international allies, Trump’s move allowed Turkey to launch a ground and air assault on Wednesday against Syria’s Kurds, who had been a crucial American ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

As Turkish planes bombed towns in north-eastern Syria, angry and terrified civilians fled, unsure of their futures. But another consequence of Trump’s decision is that losing the mandate of heaven could seriously hurt Trump’s re-election chances.

White evangelicals made up 26% of voters in the last presidential election and they voted 81% for Trump, according to Robert P Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and author of The End of White Christian America.

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Tom McCarthy