97% reduction in Iranian Christian refugee arrivals in US since 2015 – report

97% reduction in Iranian Christian refugee arrivals in US since 2015 – report

A joint report by Christian charities World Relief and Open Doors has highlighted the dramatic reduction in refugee arrivals to the US from countries where Christians are most persecuted.

The report, released on Friday, focuses specifically on refugee arrivals from countries on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted, including Iran, which was ranked 9th on the 2020 list.

The report notes that overall refugee arrivals from the 50 World Watch List countries have dropped sharply in the past five years – from more than 18,000 in 2015 to fewer than 950 so far this year.

And of all the countries, it is Iran that has seen the sharpest decline, with a 97% drop in Christian refugee arrivals since 2015, ahead of a 95% drop for Iraqi Christian refugees and 94% for Burmese Christians.

The report highlights the example of one Iranian Christian convert, who is given the name “Mana”.

Mana’s story closely resembles those of dozens of other Christians that Article18 has spoken to.

After her conversion to Christianity, Mana worshipped together with other Christians in a house-church, as open churches are off-limits to converts. When the house-church, which she hosted, was raided, Mana’s oldest son was imprisoned and “Mana concluded that fleeing Iran was necessary to keep herself and her younger son safe”. 

But this is where Mana and her younger son’s story deviates sharply from the experience of many Iranian Christian converts today, for after two and a half years of living in “challenging conditions” in Turkey, Mana and her son were accepted for resettlement in the US.

And, as the report notes, the reality for most Iranian Christian refugees today is that they will not be resettled – or at least not quickly, and usually not in the United States.

The report notes that “Mana now fears for her older son, who was released from jail in Iran and also escaped to Turkey, where he now lives as a refugee. 

“His odds of resettlement to the U.S. are slim, as just 25 Iranian Christians have been resettled to the U.S. as refugees in the first half of 2020.”

Indeed, as the story concludes, “The U.S. is on track to receive 97 percent fewer Iranian Christian refugees this year than when Mana was resettled in 2015.”

In a joint letter published at the beginning of the report, World Relief President Scott Arbeiter, CEO Tim Breene, and Open Doors USA CEO David Curry write: 

“Historically – at least at our noblest moments – the U.S. has stood as a beacon of safety and freedom for those persecuted for their faith, including many persecuted Christians. The current administration has recently made unprecedented levels of assistance available to religious minorities worldwide. In addition, a new category established in the fiscal year 2020 refugee resettlement program prioritizes religious minorities to be resettled to the United States.

“However, as the statistics and stories within this report demonstrate, the number of persecuted Christians to whom protection is available through the U.S. refugee resettlement program and the application of asylum laws has still been dramatically curtailed. With further restrictions on the near horizon, our aim with this report is to raise awareness and call the American Church both to prayer and advocacy for the persecuted. We also hope Congress and the administration will strengthen U.S. commitment to the persecuted through the refugee and asylum processes.”

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