A few months ago, I asked American Christians to urge the State Department to help Middle East Christians under persecution. I did so because the situation there is dire. As I wrote:
“[ISIS] has made clear its intentions to terrorize, kill and destroy anyone who doesn’t adhere to the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism.
“Christians remain a key target of ISIS. The widespread and vicious persecution of believers in Iraq and Syria, is tragedy of staggering proportions… Christians who refuse to renounce their faith face almost unimaginable consequences—kidnapping, rape, torture, and slavery for those who survive. Untold others have been murdered, often in the most horrifying ways.”
The pleas of concerned Americans were ultimately heard, or so it appeared. Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry finally declared that the Islamic State (which he also called by the alternate, pejorative name of Daesh) is committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities. The hope was that a genocide designation would help mobilize assistance, including refugee aid, expanded asylum rights, and economic sanctions against countries enabling genocide.
And yet, American citizens have just received word that out of the 10,801 Syrian refugees our country has received, only 56, or .5 percent, are Christian.
That’s despite the fact that about 10 percent of the Syrian population is Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook.
How can that be?
Some experts say there are disproportionately low numbers of Christian asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria because it’s too dangerous for Christians to live in refugee camps.
“They are raped, abducted into slavery and they are abducted for ransom,” said Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom. “It is extremely dangerous, there is not a single Christian in the Jordanian camps for Syrian refugees.”
And that’s significant, because Syrian refugees are referred to the U.S. by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – an agency that confirms that “some Syrians do not register out of fear. Minority communities and others fear that registration might bring retribution from other refugees.”
Others suggest there’s something else going on as well.
In fact, when asked about it, Matthew Clark, senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), was blunt.
“[The Obama administration has] not prioritized Christians and it appears they have actually deprioritized them, put them to the back of the line and made them an afterthought,” he recently told FOX News.
The aforementioned Ms. Shea agreed and went so far as to call the current situation “de facto discrimination and a gross injustice.”
What do you think?
One thing is certain: the situation demands our concern and prayers.