Historic High in US Acceptance of Christian Refugees

04 July, 2018

United States government records show that nearly 68 percent of all refugees arriving in the country over the past nine months are Christian.

That information comes from the U.S. State Department. The acceptance rate represents a 16-year high for Christian refugees.

Yet some Christian activists are unhappy about the latest numbers. They note that the number of refugees accepted is much lower than that of recent years.

The al-Qassab family, Iraqi Christian refugees from Mosul, at Beirut international airport in Lebanon ahead of their travel to the United States, February 8, 2017.
The al-Qassab family, Iraqi Christian refugees from Mosul, at Beirut international airport in Lebanon ahead of their travel to the United States, February 8, 2017.

Of the 16,229 refugees admitted from October 1 to June 28, 10,949 were Christian. They were mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, and Burma.

The Christian aid group World Relief is one of nine national resettlement organizations in the United States.

Matthew Soerens is World Relief's U.S. director of church mobilization. Soerens said that he did not know "a single Christian who is in any way consoled" by the higher proportion. He added, "I think it's a tragedy for Christians, Muslims and every other religion. Most every group you could look at is down at least 60 percent."

A Christian publication, The Christian Post, noted recently that the number of Middle Eastern Christians accepted in the U.S. was very low.

Kathryn Freeman directs public policy for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. She said that few "persecuted Christians" from the Middle East had been admitted in the past six months. She said, "I think it is also important to note that we feel the national slowdown in refugee resettlement is affecting refugees of all faiths."

The Cato Institute, a research group, reported that Muslim refugee flows fell 94 percent from January to November 2017. In December, Cato said there was a 26 percent drop in immigrants and a 32 percent decrease in temporary visas for people from majority-Muslim countries during that period.

Effects of the Trump travel ban

President Donald Trump spoke with the Christian Broadcasting Network a week after taking office in January 2017. Trump said he supported increasing the number of Christian refugees accepted to the U.S.

He pointed out that the U.S. government had been making it "very tough" for Syrian Christians to be resettled in the country. He called the situation "very, very unfair."

But many activists working for refugees say the administration has not done enough.

Seventeen Christian Syrians have been resettled in the U.S. since October of last year. Activists say that number is unlikely to change after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in support of Trump's travel ban order. The order strongly restricts the number of people accepted from Syria, four other Muslim-majority countries, Venezuela and North Korea.

Similarly, 22 Iraqi Christians have arrived in the U.S. since October 2017. At first, Iraq was included in the travel ban, but later removed. During the same period in then-President Barack Obama's last full year in office, hundreds of Iraqi Christian refugees came to the U.S.

Not about faith

Soerens of World Relief said religion should be considered as a reason for resettlement only if refugees are endangered in their home country.

"It should never be a preference of...one religion over another," he said.

The Trump administration pushed back on claims that refugee admissions are based on religion. It also disagrees that Trump's polices have affected levels of Christian or Muslim refugees.

An administration official was asked by VOA in January of this year about the dropping numbers of Muslim arrivals during the autumn and winter months.

The official said, "Our admissions has nothing to do with religion in any way, shape or form."

A state department official said, "The slowdown in many places is a result of many different factors, including security checks and medical checks and the number of resources that (the Department of Homeland Security) is able to commit."

I'm Lucija Millonig

Victoria Macchi of VOA News. Susan Shand adapted it. Mario Ritter was the editor.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

church – n. a Christian religious center; a building where Christians meet for religious services

mobilizationn. coming together for action

consolev. to soothe

proportion – n. the correct measure of something

persecutev. to treat someone cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs

preference – n. wanting something more than another thing

factor – n. something that influences or produces a result