Christians Face ‘imminent extinction’ in Middle East

Pointing to America’s history as a “safe haven to those fleeing religious persecution,” the EIT urges authorities to “resume refugee resettlement at a level consistent with historical norms.” The letter states that “all individuals must have the freedom to serve and worship God and practice their faith as their conscience dictates, without government interference.”

Despite Canada’s welcoming reputation, that nation also has been rejecting more refugee claims—especially from asylum-seekers arriving by foot. “There’s a perception that Canada is being invaded,” says Wendy Ayotte of the aid group Bridges Not Borders. “The perception is that these people are illegal and that they’re violating Canada’s borders and that they’re just queue jumpers trying to get freebies on welfare.”

In Canada, however, Syrian refugees continue to be accepted at relatively high rates, especially compared to those from countries such as Nigeria and Haiti. Among the Syrians admitted into Canada, most tell of being forced to leave their homes very suddenly, often in the middle of the night, after learning that ISIS was approaching.

Help Hasn’t Materialized for Desperate Refugees

In a January 2017 interview, President Trump agreed that persecuted Christians were being “horribly treated” and said “we are going to help them.” But his executive order at the end of that month suspended immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries and banned all Syrian refugees. That sharply curtailed the number of persecuted Christians allowed to resettle in the U.S.

In September, Secretary of State Pompeo said America would admit no more than 30,000 refugees during fiscal year 2019, which began October 1. On average, the ceiling had been about 95,000 per year previously. In response, World Relief’s Matthew Soerens said, “It’s basically the decimation of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which is very troubling.”

Although the Trump administration continues advocating for religious freedom, the president also says refugees should be resettled near their homeland. The reality, says Soerens, “is that we don’t live in that utopia where every part of the world has religious freedom. And while Christians and other religious minorities are facing incredible threats of persecution, the United States should continue to be a safe haven for at least some of the most vulnerable individuals.”

Fewer than one percent of refugees worldwide are resettled in any part of the Western world.

Refugees Face an Uncertain Future

Since the Iraqi conflict began, about 3 million people have fled the country, and hundreds of thousands remain “internally displaced.” Many live in informal U.N. settlement camps, relying on donated relief items to survive.

Fewer Syrian Christians have fled their homeland because Assad has guaranteed their survival. But Sebastiano Caputo, head of SOS Chrétiéns d’Orient, a Catholic charity, warns “if there’s a regime change in Syria, Christians will go, as they’ve done in Iraq.” 

According to the watchdog group Airwars, 2017 was the deadliest for civilians in the Middle Eastern conflict, with 6,000 casualties from U.S. and allied strikes. That’s more than triple the number of civilian deaths from the previous year.

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Stephanie Martin
Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 26 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.

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