With all the talk about and concern over Muslim refugees fleeing the Middle East to come to the United States and Europe, a simple fact seems to have been overlooked: Included in the hordes of people chasing safety and opportunity away from the bloody civil war in Syria are a large number of Christians who are frequently not getting placed in U.S. refugee programs.
It’s estimated that more than a half-million Syrian Christians have fled the country since civil war began there in 2011. Of those, just 72 have entered the United States as refugees, according to U.S. State Department data. That’s compared to the more than 10,000 Syrian refugees total accepted in just the past year.
That discrepancy highlights the dangers Christians face in the region, Elliott Abrams, a former American diplomat who served in the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, argued in a recent column.
Across the Middle East and Northern Africa, religious persecution has been on the rise, forcing millions to flee to refugee camps or risk dangerous smuggling routes on their way to Europe, according to a report earlier this year from Open Doors, an organization which focuses on persecuted Christians. The religious group has been increasingly targeted, with tens of thousands of Christians having been killed worldwide in recent years.
While the United States doesn’t appear to have a stated position on prioritizing Christian refugees, other Western countries are considering policies that would favor the group. In Germany, for example, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative Bavarian allies published a paper earlier this month calling for a focus on migrants from Europe’s “Christian-occidental cultural sphere.”
The White House announced Wednesday it would raise the cap for admitting refugees to 110,000.