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Should Syria's Christian Refugees be Favoured?


It is not too strong to call what is happening to Christians in Syria and Iraq a genocide.

christianrefugees Should Canada give preference to Christians over Muslims when admitting the 25,000 refugees from Syria over the next five weeks?  There are four ways to answer that question.

If it's because we like Christians better, or dislike Muslims, or even argue that Christians would simply fit in more easily to a majority Christian country, the answer has to be no.  Our liberal democratic traditions do not permit the government to give preference to certain people solely based on their religion.  And on Christian grounds themselves, the traditional corporal works of mercy are offered to all who are in need, irrespective of creed.

The answer is different when it comes to private sponsorship.  Common sense would argue in favour of private groups being able to sponsor refugees who might more easily be integrated into the ties that have brought together the sponsors.  Most sponsorship groups are religious — Christian in fact — but not all are.  Many such Christian groups are quite happy to sponsor Muslim families, but there are some who would like the sponsored families to be able to participate in the life of the church community upon arrival, so preferring a Christian family would be suitable in this situation.  The same would apply for Muslim groups sponsoring families who adhere to the Islamic faith.

If the question is put in a security context, the answer is more delicate.  It is simply wrong to say that all Muslim refugees are potential terrorists; indeed, the majority are themselves victims of ISIL and terror to begin with.  At the same time, it is simply obtuse to hold that a young Sunni Muslim man from Syria who was formerly waging jihad against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the same security risk as a Chaldean Christian family driven out of Mosul, Iraq, by ISIL.  The latter do not produce terrorists; the former, in rare but real cases, do.

It would seem entirely reasonable for Canadian security officials, charged by the government with vetting 5,000 refugees a week before Dec.  31, to take that into account.  Everyone knows that it's not possible to vet so many so quickly without applying some general profiling rules.  If those rules favour Christians for security reasons, it is perfectly legitimate.

Finally, if the question is put in terms of vulnerability, of which refugees are most in danger, then of course Christians fleeing ISIL territory and the Syrian civil war should be preferred, along with other non-Muslim religious minorities.

To begin with, Muslim refugees can be received in other nearby Muslim-majority countries with relative ease, while Christians cannot.  To wit, it is more or less illegal to be Christian in Saudi Arabia.

Christian, Yazidi and other minority groups are hard to reach because they generally find the UN refugee camps, dominated by Sunni Arabs and infiltrated by ISIL agents, to be hostile, if not physically dangerous.

It is not too strong to call what is happening to Christians in Syria and Iraq a genocide.  Entire Christian communities have been eliminated from places where Christians have lived since before Islam existed.  The Liberal government has accepted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that residential schools constituted a "cultural genocide" against aboriginal Canadians.  An actual genocide is unfolding against indigenous peoples in the Middle East, grounds that ought to lead the same government to prioritize Christian refugees, along with other minorities targeted for elimination.

Christian, Yazidi and other minority groups are hard to reach because they generally find the UN refugee camps, dominated by Sunni Arabs and infiltrated by ISIL agents, to be hostile, if not physically dangerous.  The effect, therefore, of working within the UN refugee determination program is to implement a policy that actually favours Muslims over Christians.  It would require affirmative action, to use a term otherwise favoured by the Obama administration, to give Christian refugees the same chance as Muslims already have.  But when it comes to Christians, the Obama administration is not inclined to notice their plight.  Canada should do better.

I began last week's column with a travelogue of Islamist terror, circling the globe since 9/ 11.  On the same day the column appeared, U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the following at the American embassy in Paris: "It has nothing to do with Islam; it has everything to do with criminality, with terror, with abuse, with psychopathism — I mean, you name it."

Over the weekend in Mali, the terror travelogue, which took Timbuktu in the north of the country a few years back, touched down in the southern city of Barnako.  After storming the Radission Blu hotel, the jihadists went right ahead and named it.  Those hostages who could recite verses from the Koran were allowed to go; those who could not, were not.  Nineteen were killed in all.

Amongst the guests at the Barnako Radisson last week, the Christians were in greater need of refuge than the Muslims when the terrorists arrived.  If that's true in luxury hotels in Mali, it is even more true in the territories controlled by ISIL.

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NationalPostFather Raymond J. de Souza, "Should Canada favour Syria's Christian refugees?" National Post, (Canada) November 24, 2015.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.

The Author

desouza Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

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