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BALTIMORE (ChurchMilitant.com) - As the U.S. southern border immigration debate intensifies, a troubling trend concerning persecuted Christians seeking refuge in America is emerging.
World Relief and Open Doors USA jointly released a report revealing a significant decrease in the number of persecuted Christians that the United States has resettled. The numbers have dropped by a staggering 70% since 2016.
In 2022, the United States welcomed only 1 out of every 3 Christian refugees who received approval for asylum in 2016. This means the United States resettled only 9,528 Christians from the 50 most dangerous countries, compared to 32,248 in 2016.
The drop is even more pronounced in other countries: Resettlements from Eritrea declined by 85%, from Iran by 95%, from Myanmar/Burma by 92% and from Iraq by 94%.
In 2021, the Biden administration set a refugee ceiling of 15,000 for the fiscal year, a historically low number. This decision attracted criticism from many, including Gayle Manchin of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Manchin pointed out the increasing number of people worldwide who are fleeing from conflict or persecution.
In response to the criticism, the Biden administration adjusted the ceiling, raising it to 62,500. However, by the end of the year, the U.S. didn't reach the initial 15,000 target. Projections for 2023 suggest the U.S. might resettle about 60,000 refugees, even with a goal of 125,000. This rate remains below the pre-2017 average of 81,000 resettlements, even as the global need grows.
Adding to the complexity, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security introduced a policy in May that restricts asylum for individuals who enter the country without using official entry points. Critics have pointed out the limited availability of an app designed to schedule asylum appointments, calling the situation an "asylum lottery."
Matt Soerens, World Relief's vice president of advocacy and policy, weighed in on the situation, emphasizing a biblical perspective on persecution.
"We know from the Scriptures that Jesus takes the persecution of his people personally: on the road to Damascus, he asks Saul — who had brutally persecuted Jesus' earliest followers but had never met Jesus himself — 'why do you persecute me?' (Acts 9:4)," he wrote in a statement.
Soerens continued by pointing out that most Christians in the U.S. are fortunate to live in a country with strong protection for religious liberty. He noted the stark contrast between the freedom experienced by Christians in the United States and the severe persecution faced by many in other parts of the world. In the United States, Christians might face mockery or disdain, but they rarely fear for their lives due to their faith.
He expressed pride in America's long-standing tradition of offering refuge to those persecuted for their faith, but he cautioned that this legacy might be in jeopardy. Drawing attention to the updated report, Soerens stressed the potential risks to countless Christians if the United States fails to reaffirm its commitment to a strong refugee resettlement program and ensuring due process for asylum seekers.
In his concluding remarks, Soerens called on Americans to exercise their rights responsibly. He expressed hope, stating, "As Americans exercise another vital freedom, to elect our president and other leaders of our nation, I pray that candidates of all backgrounds will stand for religious freedom by supporting robust refugee resettlement and asylum policies."
Since 1993, Open Doors' World Watch List has shed light on the scale and severity of Christian persecution worldwide.
Over the past 30 years, there has been a significant increase in persecution; the number of countries where Christians face high to extreme levels of persecution has nearly doubled, rising to 76.
The list ranks the top 50 countries where Christians face the most severe challenges. Within these 50 nations, a staggering 312 million Christians endure high levels of persecution.
Last year, 5,621 Christians were killed due to their faith, with 90% of these murders occurring in Nigeria. The surge in violence in Nigeria and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa over the past five years has led to a significant rise in the number of Christians killed. In 2023, the number of Christian deaths was 80% higher than it was five years prior, which was 3,066.
The watch list currently highlights 12 countries where persecution levels are extreme: Afghanistan, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.