US to accept 10,000th Syrian refugee
The Obama administration hit its goal this week of admitting 10,000
Syrian refugees — yet only a fraction of a percent are Christians,
stoking criticism that officials are not doing enough to address their
plight in the Middle East.
Of the 10,801 refugees accepted in fiscal 2016 from the war-torn country, 56 are Christians, or .5 percent.
A total of 10,722 were Muslims, and 17 were Yazidis.
The numbers are disproportionate to the Christian population in
Syria, estimated last year by the U.S. government to make up roughly 10
percent of the population. Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, it
is estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million Christians have fled the
country, while many have been targeted and slaughtered by the Islamic
In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. had determined
that ISIS has committed genocide against minority religious groups,
including Christians and Yazidis.
“In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in
territory under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia
Muslims,” Kerry said at the State Department, using an alternative
Arabic name for the group.
He also accused ISIS of “crimes against humanity” and “ethnic cleansing.”
Yet, despite the strong words, relatively few from those minority
groups have been brought into the United States. A State Department
spokesperson told FoxNews.com that religion was only one of many factors
used in determining a refugee’s eligibility to enter the United States.
Critics blasted the administration for not making religion a more
important factor, as the U.S. government has prioritized religious
minorities in the past in other cases.
“It’s disappointingly disproportional,” Matthew Clark, senior counsel
at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), told FoxNews.com.
“[The Obama administration has] not prioritized Christians and it
appears they have actually deprioritized them, put them back of the line
and made them an afterthought.”
“This is de facto discrimination and a gross injustice,” said Nina
Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.
Experts say another reason for the lack of Christians in the make-up
of the refugees is the make-up of the camps. Christians in the main
United Nations refugee camp in Jordan are subject to persecution, they
say, and so flee the camps, meaning they are not included in the
refugees referred to the U.S. by the U.N.
“The Christians don’t reside in those camps because it is too
dangerous,” Shea said. “They are preyed upon by other residents from the
Sunni community and there is infiltration by ISIS and criminal gangs.”
“They are raped, abducted into slavery and they are abducted for
ransom. It is extremely dangerous, there is not a single Christian in
the Jordanian camps for Syrian refugees,” Shea said.
However, Kristin Wright, director of advocacy for Open Doors USA – a
group that advocates for Christians living in dangerous areas across the
world – told FoxNews.com that another reason is many Christians are
choosing to stick it out in Syria, or going instead to urban areas for
“Many have fled to urban areas instead of the camps, so they may be
living in Beirut instead of living in a broader camp, meaning many are
not registering as refugees,” Wright said. “They may still come to the
U.S. but may come through another immigration pathway.”
However, others called on the Obama administration, in light of its
genocide declaration, to do more to assist Christians, including setting
up safe zones in Syria or actively seeking out Christians via the use
of contractors to bring them to safety.
In March, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced legislation that would
give special priority to refugees who were members of persecuted
religious minorities in Syria.
“We must not only recognize what’s happening as genocide, but also take action to relieve it,” Cotton said.
“The administration did the right thing by recognizing genocide, but
by not taking action, it deflates it and makes it so Christians and
others are not receiving any help,” Clark said. “So it’s all words and
no actions, it’s just lip service on the issue of the genocide.”
This week, the ACLJ filed a lawsuit against the State Department for
not responding to Freedom of Information Act requests about what the
administration is doing to combat the genocide.
For Shea, the question is not just about helping refugees, but the
very survival of Christianity in the 2,000-year community that has
existed since the apostolic era of Christianity.
“This Christian community is dying,” she said. “I fear that there will be no Christians left when the dust settles.”