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WESTMINSTER (ChurchMilitant.com) - The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is publicly decrying the lack of concern shown to Christians involved in the Syrian refugee crisis.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, claims that while Christians are facing the most persecution in Syria, they are receiving the least amount of assistance.
In an interview last week with BBC Radio, the cardinal pointed out that around 20,000 refugees are scheduled to be shipped into Britain straight from refugee camps in Syria, but the camps they will be drawn from do not hold any Christians.
Nichols said that he can "see the point in going directly to the refugee camps" to bring in refugees — but "because for the most part Christian refugees do not go into the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps" and are instead sent to Christian organizations, there will be "few, if any, Christians" coming into Britain.
Cardinal Nichols said if Britain is going to "deal purely with UNHCR, according to their rules, there can be no preference given to anybody on behalf of their faith and we will simply bypass the Christian refugees, not intentionally, but in fact."
The cardinal is not alone in voicing this concern. The Anglican bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, notes in an editorial that "Christians represent the most persecuted people on earth in the 21st century."
"[W]e are not talking here of a bit of ridicule or silly marginalization," wrote Baines. "We are talking about men, women and children being singled out because of their Christian faith or identity and put to an unimaginably cruel death. Or being driven out of home, away from livelihood, deprived of identity and dignity."
Baines highlighted growing hostility toward Christians around the world, including bans on Christmas celebrations in both Somalia and Brunei — both Muslim-majority countries — as Muslim leaders have said the festivities run "contrary to Islamic culture, which could damage the faith of the Muslim community."
Britain's foremost rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, also said the bans are emblematic of "an intolerance that, as Jews, we simply cannot countenance."
In his annual Christmas message, British prime minister David Cameron claimed that as a Christian country Britain should "reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none."
He also noted that "Christians from Africa to Asia will go to church on Christmas morning full of joy, but many in fear of persecution."
Cardinal Nichols has previously berated the U.K. government for its slow reaction toward the refugee crisis, stating in November that "so much more needs to be done." He has also supported the use of force in combating the growing threat of ISIS.
Despite his strong stance on the refugee crisis and ISIS, Cdl. Nichols has previously come under fire for his controversial actions in expanding the Church's ministry toward the LGBT community, including presiding over a Mass specifically geared toward "LGBT Catholics." He has also presented controversial views on extending Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried.
To date, Britain has resettled 1,000 Syrian refugees, anticipating up to 20,000 over the next five years.
To learn more on Christian persecution in the Middle East, please see our Special Report "Cold as ISIS."