Christian groups say Trump closed door to persecuted Christian refugees

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WASHINGTON – Despite public statements promoting freedom of religion, the Trump administration has failed to provide a lifeline to persecuted Christian refugees and other religious minorities around the world, says report by two Christian advocacy groups.

The number of Christian refugees and other religious minorities allowed to enter the United States has dropped significantly under President Donald Trump, according to a report by World Relief, a Christian aid organization, and Open Doors USA, a non-profit organization. which follows religious freedom.

“With religious persecution of Christians at some of the highest levels ever reported, closing the door on refugees and asylum seekers threatens the lives of Christians – and American Christians must not remain silent,” said the report. , entitled “Doors closed”.

In 2019, the number of Christians resettled in the United States from a list of 50 countries known to have persecuted Christians has decreased by 69% compared to 2015, according to the report, which was based on refugee figures from the Department of State.

Six months after 2020, fewer than 950 Christians have been resettled in these 50 countries, up from more than 18,000 in 2015, according to the report. If current trends continue, the United States will admit about 90% fewer Christian refugees from these countries this year than in 2015.

The Trump administration has dramatically reduced overall refugee admissions to unprecedented levels, but the COVID-19 pandemic has further restricted the flow. Refugee admissions were temporarily suspended in March after the administration raised public health concerns. The suspension remains in place.

A State Department spokesperson said that the Trump administration “gives priority to those who have been persecuted for their religious beliefs in accordance with our commitment to advance religious freedom internationally, including the protection of religious groups ”.

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The administration is also providing humanitarian aid to help people displaced by war and natural disasters, the spokesman said, adding: “In fiscal year 2019, the United States paid more than 9.5 billion dollars to support the response to crises in the world, the largest number of countries in the world. world. “

Out of a maximum of 18,000 admissions of refugees authorized during this fiscal year, the administration specifically allocated 5,000 places to candidates victims of religious persecution. As of June 30, the United States had admitted 3,564 refugees who were victims of religious persecution, according to State Department data.

The report’s authors cited examples of the decline in the number of particularly vulnerable Christian communities. The United States resettled 336 Christians from Myanmar in the first half of 2020. In 2015, more than 11,000 Christians from Myanmar were admitted to the United States.

So far, only 43 Iraqi Christians have been resettled in the United States, up from around 1,500 in 2015 and 2,000 in 2016, according to Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief.

“We believe the United States can and should do more,” said Breene during a teleconference.

Although President Trump tended to have strong support from Christian voters and activists, one of the report’s authors, David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, said that American Christians should not keep the silence on the plight of the refugees.

“Christians must speak out on this issue,” Curry told reporters.

The administration deserves praise for its unfailing support for the principle of religious freedom, he said, and for the assistance given to Christian communities abroad, but that does not prevent the White House from being held. responsible for its treatment of refugees.

“It is not wrong for us to say where the administration should intervene,” said Curry. “It’s not good and we have to fix it. “

The Trump administration has stated that its policy is designed to help refugees where they are instead of resettling them in the United States, but Curry said that this approach ignores the harsh reality that many Christians and other religious minorities make face mortal danger and must seek refuge elsewhere.

Walter Kim, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, welcomed the report and said it was “shocking” that the United States “has closed its doors to virtually everyone seeking our protection, including persecuted Christians “

“We must change this policy and remain a leader of religious freedom,” he said in a statement.

The report calls for help to all who are threatened and persecuted because of their faith, not just Christians, the authors said.

Admissions for other religious minorities also declined significantly under the Trump administration, according to the report. At current rates, compared to 2015, admissions this year will drop by more than 90% for Muslims in Myanmar, Yazidis from Iraq, Kirat refugees from Bhutan and Nepal, Jews from Iran and Iraq and the Baha’i refugees from Iran.

Last year, the United States Commission for Freedom of International Religion, a bipartisan group chaired by Tony Perkins, a Christian conservative who generally supported President Trump, warned of further cuts in the resettlement of refugees in the United States. United, calling on the White House to restore the number. refugees to the historic standard of about 95,000 people.

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