It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why the Question of Christian vs. Muslim Refugees Has Become So Incredibly Divisive

The following excerpts are from

Christians make up a tiny percentage of the Syrian refugees the United States has resettled. Is that wrong?

The topic is raging this week, with multiple governors and GOP presidential candidates saying Syrian refugees should be shut out after the Paris attacks by Muslim radicals. President Obama then said it was "shameful" to have a religious test for refugees of war. "That's not American. That's not who we are. We don't have religious tests to our compassion," he said.

In fact, the role of religion in how refugees are considered and how the United States looks at persecution is more complicated. Religion is considered by both the United Nations and the State Department, which defines a refugee as "someone who has fled from his or her home country and cannot return because he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group."

A torrent of other issues also come when refugee status is considered. How severely persecuted is the group? Is their religion the primary factor or are there other issues, such as political or ethnic affiliations that are equally or more significant? Does the group have other options, anywhere to else to go?

Whether the United States works too hard or not hard enough for persecuted Christians overseas has become increasingly explosive in the last decade. In that period, conditions for religious minorities in the Middle East have seriously deteriorated. And in the United States, some religious Americans see hostility in President Obama's liberalizing policies about birth control and gay rights. Among many of these people, and others, anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise. Some 30 percent of Americans wrongly believe Obama is Muslim.

Advocates for Middle Eastern Christians note that this group is disappearing from the region of Jesus's birth in the rubble of government chaos in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

This week such Americans were jarred by a Yahoo News report that the State Department is about to designate the Islamic State's assault on the small population of Yazidis in Iraq genocide -- a very rare move that could have implications for the United States to hold perpetrators accountable. While other religious minorities from the region, including Christians, are described as severely persecuted for their faith, the Yazidis are described as under a particular kind of siege.

The report suggests the government is influenced by a Nov. 12 paper by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. That paper said the Islamic State "is carrying out a widespread, systematic, and deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity" against Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen, Shabak and other minority groups. Of that group, only the Yazidis faced genocide because "the attacks on them were to make sure no future Yazidis would be born. To end them as a people altogether," Naomi Kikoker, deputy director of the center, told The Post. She cited interviews with residents and said Christians "faced slightly different treatment" if "horrific," being forced to leave, pay a tax or convert.

That was the first time the museum had declared anything a genocide since 2004, when it used the term for the Darfur region of Sudan.

But the possibility of a State Department proclamation led prominent advocates for Middle Eastern Christians to say it showed bias.

"If true, it would reflect a familiar pattern within the administration of a politically correct bias that views Christians -- even non-Western congregations such as those in Iraq and Syria -- never as victims but always as Inquisition-style oppressors," wrote Nina Shea in National Review Nov. 13.

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Why the Question of Christian vs. Muslim Refugees Has Become So Incredibly Divisive

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