Obama Called a Religious Test for Syrians ‘Shameful’ But Here’s What His State Department Says

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From IJReview: President Obama called “a religious test” for Syrian migrants and refugees “shameful.” An interesting complaint, according to a former national security advisor for President George W. Bush.

Elliot Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an op-ed for The Weekly Standard last week. In it, he compared the President’s rhetoric with his own State Department’s actions.

Abrams concluded that Obama’s:

“…own administration claims to be — rightly and lawfully — following the very policy he called ‘shameful.’”

Citing an unclassified email from the State Department, Abram’s quoted:

“The State Department’s new Special Advisor for Religious Minorities, Knox Thames, has looked into the numbers of Syrian Christian refugees who have been resettled in the United States.

“Due to the unique needs of vulnerable religious minority communities, the State Department has prioritized the resettlement of Syrian Christian refugees and other religious minorities fleeing the conflict.” [emphasis added]

The email further states that before the Syrian civil war began four years ago, Middle Eastern Christians made up around 10% of the population or approximately 1.8 million people.

Christians take part in a symbolic funeral in Jerusalem's Old City on February 18, 2015, for the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) group on a Libyan beach. Egypt pushed for action against jihadists in Libya ahead of a UN Security Council meeting but faced reluctance from Western powers who stressed the need for a political solution. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI (Photo credit should read AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

A state department official confirmed to IJ.com that “the emphasis of our refugee admissions program is on helping the most vulnerable” and that includes “Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities from Iraq and Syria.”

The official adds:

“In Fiscal Year 2015, the U.S. admitted approximately 1,700 Syrian refugees, 5% of whom were members of religious minorities, including Christians.”

But Abrams’s state department email notes:

“Many minority religious groups from Syria are urban refugees and have not entered the UN system.”

The United States’s current refugee vetting system relies on the United Nations Refugee Agency to conduct the first round of background checks.

This puts Christians and other minority religious groups not entering the UN system at a disadvantage.

As the email states, they will be underrepresented in the 100,000 refugees and migrants the United States will accept through 2017, even though the state department recognizes the “unique needs” of these minorities.

Federal law for dealing with refugees is designed to specifically address particular kinds of persecution, including religious persecution, which requires religion to be clarified to the government.

Demonstrators hold signs of the arabic letter “N”. The letter is painted by the Islamic State on Christian’s houses in Iraq to locate them. Image Credit: Bertrand Guay/Getty ImagesDemonstrators hold signs of the Arabic letter “N”. The letter is painted by the Islamic State on Christian’s houses in Iraq to locate them; Image Credit: Bertrand Guay/Getty Images

Designating ISIS’s attacks on the Yezidi population in Iraq — an ancient religion that incorporates elements of both Christianity and Islam — as an act of “genocide” lends further recognition to religious persecution.

Yahoo! News reports that Secretary of State John Kerry could make the announcement to use this term officially in the next few weeks.

More than 100 members of Congress have co-sponsored a resolution, introduced earlier this year by the chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, to declare the attacks against Christians in the region as genocide, as well.

Critics of the President argue he has not sufficiently publicly addressed the plight of Christians, despite their comparable situation to the Yezidi people. Yet it seems the position of the state department is that Middle East Christians are a vulnerable population deserving protection.

 

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