Syrian Christian Refugees to US Still in Line Behind Muslims, and Obama’s Just Fine With That
Syrian Christian refugees make up less than one percent of the refugees given asylum in the U.S. Why won't President Obama act?
Ten months ago, Syrian Christian refugees made up about 2.6 percent of the Syrian refugees being accepted into the United States. Today, they make up less than half of one percent.
According to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, in the last year the United States has admitted only 56 Christians out of 11,157 Syrian refugees granted asylum. But according to the CIA’s World Factbook, Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population. And given how Syrian Christians are being persecuted by ISIS and other jihadist groups, surely they represent at least 10 percent if not more of the would-be refugees from Syria.
So, why don’t Christians make up at at least 10 percent of the refugees admitted? And why hasn’t the Obama administration, apparently so eager to welcome Syrian refugees to our shores, corrected the imbalance? There are at least two possible explanations.
Two Explanations for the Missing Syrian Christian Refugees
Some argue that the U.S. intentionally picks Syrian Muslim refugees over Syrian Christian refugees. Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer writes, “This is social engineering, not humanitarian relief.”
Others argue that there is another, more practical reason. The refugees admitted to the U.S. are taken from Syrian refugee camps, and these camps are deadly places for Christians. Christians are regularly kidnapped, tortured, raped and endure all manner of atrocities, so they avoid the camps, said Jonathan Witt, managing editor of The Stream.
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom concurs. “The Christians don’t reside in those camps, because it is too dangerous,” she said. “They are preyed upon by other residents from the Sunni community and there is infiltration by ISIS and criminal gangs.”
Also, Kiri Kankhwende, senior press officer for the United Kingdom-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) workers routinely show favoritism to Muslims over those Christians who do choose to live in the refugee camps. “There are reports of UNHCR local staff discriminating against Christians and dissuading them from registering for resettlement,” she said in a statement to the Assyrian International News Agency, adding that her organization “interviewed many Christian refugees who described experiencing threats, intimidation and physical attacks from Muslim refugees.”
Ten months ago, Witt commented, “President Obama should act, but standing up to bullies takes courage and resources. Finding the truly helpless in a system rigged against the helpless takes effort and commitment. There’s still time for Obama, working with Congress, to make that effort and that commitment.”
Ten months later, the Syrian Christians are still waiting for Obama to so much as lift a finger.
Those who choose to stay in their villages aren’t safe, either. Islamist militants took over Maaloula, Syria, in late 2013 and occupied the town for about six months, CNN reported. Even now Christians in the town are afraid for their lives, and some residents who were kidnapped by ISIS are still missing. One resident, a nun named Sister Antoinette, told The Telegraph that her brother-in-law had been killed by rebel fighters and his son kidnapped. Another villager said that his neighbor was slaughtered in his home and the rebels had tried to force another man to convert to Islam. Sister Antoinette said the Syrian army failed them, leaving the town even as residents begged them to help. “They sold us because we are a minority,” she said. “They abandoned us because we are Christians.”
In June, 2016, jihadists slit the throat of a Christian man in front of his wife and mocked her, saying “Your Jesus did not come to save him from us,” reported Christians in Pakistan. Militants arrived in Maaloula at dawn and shouted that they were from the Al-Nusra Front and aimed to make life miserable for the Christians. The persecution of Christians in Syria has resulted in the enormous refugee crisis, according to Christians in Pakistan.
A Still Declining Number
Overall, the number of Christian Syrian refugees admitted to the United States per month has declined, even after Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement in March that ISIS was indeed committing genocide against minority groups, including Christians. “In my judgment, Daesh [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” Kerry said, adding that ISIS had committed “crimes against humanity” and “ethnic cleansing.”
The State Department, however, has not changed how it is operating to actively seek out Christian Syrians and give them asylum, leading Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to introduce legislation that would give persecuted religious minority groups priority. “We must not only recognize what’s happening as genocide, but also take action to relieve it,” Cotton said, adding that Kerry’s words were “just lip service on the issue of the genocide.”
Shea told Fox News that it’s not just about helping Christian refugees safely escape Syria, but the survival of Christianity in Syria itself. “This Christian community is dying,” she said. “I fear that there will be no Christians left when the dust settles.”