refugees

Refugees

With over 60 million displaced people worldwide, and nearly 40% originating from the Arab world, refugees are dealing with the trauma of having their lives uprooted, while countries (especially those neighboring Syria) are struggling to support incoming populations from war-torn or conflict zones.

Background

Although refugees are not unique to the Middle East, the regional history riddled with war and instability has significantly inflamed the refugee crisis. For example, the Palestinian refugee crisis created after the 1948 war with Israel produced 750,000 displaced Palestinians. Refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria still house thousands of Palestinians.  

Additionally, modern crises in the Middle East have caused large-scale displacement of local populations. One of the primary conflicts driving the refugee crisis is the war in Syria. As a result of the war, 12 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced. Lebanon has received more than 1 million Syrian refugees, but without proper infrastructure in place such as formal refugee camps or plentiful resources, approximately 70% of Syrian refugees there live below the poverty line. In Jordan, there are approximately 740,000 registered refugees, but the majority (80%) reside in urban areas. The rest live in large refugee camps such as Zaatari, Azraq, or Emirati.  

In Iraq, more than 3 million people have been displaced across the country since the start of 2014. Refugees from Iraq total around 240,000 and are primarily in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Germany. Since 2003, Iraq has lost 80% of its Christian population; many were slaughtered at the hands of ISIS. In 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that ISIS had committed genocide against Yazidi, Christian, and Shia Muslim populations in areas under its control across Syria and Iraq.  

Yemen has recently been characterized by one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world with 3 million people having been forced to flee their homes because of the war. Reports estimate that more than 22 million Yemenis need immediate humanitarian assistance, and 15 million are on the brink of starvation.  

Implications

Each refugee population face their own set of unique challenges. For example, displaced Christians from Iraq who’ve found refuge in Jordan are denied official refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which impacts their ability to access fundamental services such as food aid resources and the ability to work to support themselves and their families. 

The refugee crisis has also taken a toll on countries who’ve taken in more than their capacity allows. Countries are unprepared for the amount of assistance required by the large influx of incoming refugees, and this has put a strain on resources and the economy. Many countries, including the US, have put a limit on their intake of refugees, citing economic and security concerns. 

The refugee crisis threatens the survival of indigenous Christian populations in the Middle East. In the early twentieth century, Christians made up 13.6% of the population of the Middle East. Today, after persecution, war, and genocide, Christians are less than 4% of the region. 

Our Take

The Philos Project acknowledges that we are living in the worst refugee crisis of all time—with 68.5 million forcibly displaced people around the world. Many have experienced persecution and expulsion just because of their faith. As Christians, we must not only send our prayers and sympathies, but we must act to support the current refugee populations and continue to enforce policies that promote religious freedom. 

With the onset of the most recent refugee crisis spilling over from Syria, it is apparent that the US is unable to take in all refugees. However, we believe that the US should join in the international effort of receiving some refugees, while finding just solutions for the others. We support sensible policies that recognize the economic and security concerns of host countries and balances the needs of refugees. To the extent possible, we prefer that refugees are able to settle back into or near their original homes. Stabilizing Syria must be prioritized so that refugees are able to return.  

As Christians, we see every human as being created in the image of God, and thus equally valuable. Specifically, regarding Christian refugees, the best way to help them is to find a way to ensure their ongoing survival inside their historic homeland. To secure this goal, the US should focus on aiding the creation of ethnically-centered safe-havens throughout the Middle East. These safe-havens would respect ethnic and territorial boundaries and provide protection for minority groups.  

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