Christian religious freedom activist Faith McDonnell is pushing back against the notion that it is unchristian to voice concerns with how the State Department is resettling refugees from Syria and other terrorist hot spots in the Middle East.
McDonnell, the the director of Religious Liberty Programs and the Church Alliance for a New Sudan at the Washington-based think tank Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post on Monday that it’s reasonable for Christians to voice concern about how the State Department is resettling only a minuscule percentage of Christian refugees from Syria and voice concern that the havoc being wrecked by Muslim refugees in Europe could also occur in America.
McDonnell took issue with recent remarks issued by Matthew Soerens, the U.S. director of church mobilization for the evangelical refugee resettlement organization World Relief.
Soerens, who works for one of nine agencies authorized by the State Department to resettle refugees inside the U.S., told CP this month that the notion that the State Department has an “anti-Christian bias” is baseless when looking at refugee resettlement numbers.
First, he said that the State Department refugee vetting process takes as long as 18 months and the refugees who are being resettled now are mostly Muslim refugees who fled their homes years ago when the Syrian conflict first started and before the Islamic State took power. He also explained that many Christians refugees fled to Lebanon, where the U.S. didn’t begin resettling refugees from until recently.
“I think that [these are] true but I don’t think that is a good excuse,” McDonnell, who has had her share of disagreements with World Relief in the past, said. “I think for one thing, if you read Mindy Belz’s book They Say We Are Infidels, you’ll see that both Syrian and Iraqi Christians had been suffering for a long time, even before the Syrian war with Assad and everything started. We should have been prepared for that. If you are refugee resettlement people and you are seeing what is on the radar screen, if you had any thought in your mind at all that Christians are being persecuted because they are Christians, then they would have been on their radar screen already.”
McDonnell said she thinks that the State Department should change the way it decides which Syrian refugees will be resettled, considering that the U.S. relies heavily on refugee referrals from the United Nations but many Christians stay away from U.N. camps due to fear of persecution from Muslim radicals.
McDonnell also believes that the State Department should expedite the vetting process for vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees. She detested Soerens’ claim that expediting Christian refugees would be a “double-edged sword.”
Although Soerens argued that expediting Christian refugees would cause other refugees to lie and say they are Christian, McDonnell argues that it wouldn’t be difficult to confirm whether or not refugees were actually Christians, stating that there are baptismal records available and leaders with the Assyrian and Chaldean churches are able to vouch for many Christians.
“There is this thing about ‘Are we going to respond with fear or compassion?’ I think that is a false dichotomy,” McDonnell said. “I think that you can be compassionate and still have the appropriate concern about the situation. They challenge American Christians and churches to respond biblically with Christ-like compassion and not give into fear, which they insinuate is not only sinful but in some cases, they ridicule people for it.”
McDonnell also took issue with a remark given by prominent megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, who said earlier this year that if Christians are not helping refugees, then “I doubt our Christianity.”
“Rick Warren saying that if we are not helping, he doubts our Christianity. I think that is really appalling,” McDonnell said. “If we look at what is happening right now in Europe, is it really compassionate and Christian to subject Americans to that kind of nightmare, to the rape that is going on and the changing of the entire cultures?”
Although advocates for Syrian refugee resettlement say that the State Department’s 18-month vetting process is adequate enough to keep terrorists out and keep the country safe, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., recently highlighted 20 examples of refugees who passed the State Department vetting process but were implicated in or convicted for terrorism or terrorism related offenses.
McDonnell warned that the Muslim appeasement happening in European countries should not be allowed to happen in America. Just recently, it was reported that wealthy citizens in Sweden have been asked to let newly arrived migrants stay in their own country homes.
“We are voluntarily becoming dhimmis (non-Muslims citizens in an Islamic state) to Islam and seeing ourselves as second-class citizens in our own countries because of this,” McDonnell stressed.
McDonnell said that one of the things that shaped her opinion on the refugee resettlement issue was news that came out of Maine last year, when an African Christian man was slaughtered by Somali refugees.
“Maine is kind of crazy in that way, saying, ‘Oh, we embrace refugees.’ And then that is what happens because there is no sense of prudence about it at all,” McDonnell added. “I would be interested to know which one of the VOLAGs had resettled those Somali refugees and if they had any concern or compassion for the man who died at their hands,” McDonnell said.
“There is enough evidence to say that at least part of this is people who are choosing to migrate as part of Islamic hegira, to spread Islam in the West and to work on behalf of groups like the Islamic State to build the caliphate around the world,” McDonnell said. “You sound like a crazy person when you say that but that sounded crazy when people talked about a caliphate five years ago and here it is.”