August 17, 2019

It’s Not Unchristian to Be Concerned About Refugee Resettlement, Religious Freedom Advocate Says

Syrian refugees (Photo: Reuters/David Ryder)

People gather to protest against the United States’ acceptance of Syrian refugees at the Washington State capitol in Olympia, Washington, November 20, 2015.

Christian religious freedom activist Faith McDonnell is pushing back against the notion that it is unchristian to voice concerns with how the State Department is resettling refugees from Syria and other terrorist hot spots in the Middle East.

McDonnell, the the director of Religious Liberty Programs and the Church Alliance for a New Sudan at the Washington-based think tank Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post on Monday that it’s reasonable for Christians to voice concern about how the State Department is resettling only a minuscule percentage of Christian refugees from Syria and voice concern that the havoc being wrecked by Muslim refugees in Europe could also occur in America.

Faith McDonnellFaith J. H. McDonnell directs the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan and is the author of “Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children” (Chosen Books, 2007).

McDonnell took issue with recent remarks issued by Matthew Soerens, the U.S. director of church mobilization for the evangelical refugee resettlement organization World Relief.

Soerens, who works for one of nine agencies authorized by the State Department to resettle refugees inside the U.S., told CP this month that the notion that the State Department has an “anti-Christian bias” is baseless when looking at refugee resettlement numbers.

He pointed to State Department Refugee Processing Center data which shows that more Christian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. in the time-span between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2015, than refugees with other religious affiliations.

Although more Christian refugees might have been resettled in the U.S. than any other religious group in the last decade, McDonnell points out her concern with the fact that the government has begun resettling more and more Muslim refugees from terrorist hot spots in the Middle East over the last few years and are now accepting more Muslim refugees than Christian.

In the last year since Oct. 1, 2015, more Muslim refugees (over 30,500) have been resettled in the U.S. than Christian refugees (nearly 29,000), according to the State Department Refugee Processing Center data. CNS News reports that this is the first time in over a decade the U.S. has resettled more Muslim refugees than Christians refugees.

But as the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State has caused hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee their homes in Syria over the last couple of years, McDonnell says that there is a real issue with the fact that the U.S. has resettled only 47 Syrian Christian refugees, compared to 9,077 Syrian Muslim refugees this fiscal year.

Soerens explained that there are “understandable” reasons why there is such great disparity between Syrian-Christian and Syrian-Muslim refugee resettlement in the U.S.

First, he said that the State Department refugee vetting process takes as long as 18 months and the refugees who are being resettled now are mostly Muslim refugees who fled their homes years ago when the Syrian conflict first started and before the Islamic State took power. He also explained that many Christians refugees fled to Lebanon, where the U.S. didn’t begin resettling refugees from until recently.

“I think that [these are] true but I don’t think that is a good excuse,” McDonnell, who has had her share of disagreements with World Relief in the past, said. “I think for one thing, if you read Mindy Belz’s book They Say We Are Infidels, you’ll see that both Syrian and Iraqi Christians had been suffering for a long time, even before the Syrian war with Assad and everything started. We should have been prepared for that. If you are refugee resettlement people and you are seeing what is on the radar screen, if you had any thought in your mind at all that Christians are being persecuted because they are Christians, then they would have been on their radar screen already.”

McDonnell said she thinks that the State Department should change the way it decides which Syrian refugees will be resettled, considering that the U.S. relies heavily on refugee referrals from the United Nations but many Christians stay away from U.N. camps due to fear of persecution from Muslim radicals.

McDonnell also believes that the State Department should expedite the vetting process for vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees. She detested Soerens’ claim that expediting Christian refugees would be a “double-edged sword.”

Although Soerens argued that expediting Christian refugees would cause other refugees to lie and say they are Christian, McDonnell argues that it wouldn’t be difficult to confirm whether or not refugees were actually Christians, stating that there are baptismal records available and leaders with the Assyrian and Chaldean churches are able to vouch for many Christians.

 Syrian refugees (Photo: Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Syrian and Afghan refugees fall into the sea after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. Of the record total of 432,761 refugees and migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, an estimated 309,000 people had arrived by sea in Greece, the International Organization for Migration said on Friday. About half of those crossing the Mediterranean are Syrians fleeing civil war, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

As many in America have voiced concern that the resettling of Syrian refugees and other refugees from the Middle East could put the safety of the nation at risk because it could allow for terrorists to access the country, World Relief asks, “What will rule our hearts — fear or compassion?” That question was posed in an advertisement for the new book Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis, which is co-authored by Soerens and World Relief President Stephen Bauman.

“There is this thing about ‘Are we going to respond with fear or compassion?’ I think that is a false dichotomy,” McDonnell said. “I think that you can be compassionate and still have the appropriate concern about the situation. They challenge American Christians and churches to respond biblically with Christ-like compassion and not give into fear, which they insinuate is not only sinful but in some cases, they ridicule people for it.”

McDonnell also took issue with a remark given by prominent megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, who said earlier this year that if Christians are not helping refugees, then “I doubt our Christianity.”

“Rick Warren saying that if we are not helping, he doubts our Christianity. I think that is really appalling,” McDonnell said. “If we look at what is happening right now in Europe, is it really compassionate and Christian to subject Americans to that kind of nightmare, to the rape that is going on and the changing of the entire cultures?”

Although advocates for Syrian refugee resettlement say that the State Department’s 18-month vetting process is adequate enough to keep terrorists out and keep the country safe, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., recently highlighted 20 examples of refugees who passed the State Department vetting process but were implicated in or convicted for terrorism or terrorism related offenses.

McDonnell warned that the Muslim appeasement happening in European countries should not be allowed to happen in America. Just recently, it was reported that wealthy citizens in Sweden have been asked to let newly arrived migrants stay in their own country homes.

“We are voluntarily becoming dhimmis (non-Muslims citizens in an Islamic state) to Islam and seeing ourselves as second-class citizens in our own countries because of this,” McDonnell stressed.

McDonnell said that one of the things that shaped her opinion on the refugee resettlement issue was news that came out of Maine last year, when an African Christian man was slaughtered by Somali refugees.

“Maine is kind of crazy in that way, saying, ‘Oh, we embrace refugees.’ And then that is what happens because there is no sense of prudence about it at all,” McDonnell added. “I would be interested to know which one of the VOLAGs had resettled those Somali refugees and if they had any concern or compassion for the man who died at their hands,” McDonnell said.

Also, it was recently reported that an Iranian refugee in Maine became radicalized and left to join the Islamic State.

“There is enough evidence to say that at least part of this is people who are choosing to migrate as part of Islamic hegira, to spread Islam in the West and to work on behalf of groups like the Islamic State to build the caliphate around the world,” McDonnell said. “You sound like a crazy person when you say that but that sounded crazy when people talked about a caliphate five years ago and here it is.”

Source: The Christian Post

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