Christians have lived in the Middle East for thousands of years. Tensions have always flared from time to time between Christians and other religions in the region; however, since the rise of the Islamic State, Christians in the Middle East have faced increased persecution and have been forced to flee their homes. “Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world are disappearing in the very lands where their faith was born and first took root,” says a Center for American Progress.
The Pew Research Center estimates that only 1% of the Middle East’s total population is Christian, despite the fact that the religion began in the region. The numbers get worse as you examine countries that ISIS has thrived in. According to a report highlighted on 60 Minutes, of the nearly 300,000 Christians remaining in Iraq in 2014, nearly 125,000 have been forced to leave Iraq due to increased attacks from ISIS. The numbers are equally as bad for Christians in Syria, another stronghold of ISIS. Newsweek reports that nearly 700,000 Syrian Christians have been forced from their homes since the rise of ISIS in the region.
With thousands of Christians fleeing the Middle East in search of safer lives, the increase in asylum seekers has but a strain on immigration systems around the world. The BBC reports that some 153,000 migrants have crossed into Europe this year, a 149% increase from 2014. The European Union is currently engulfed in a debate on what to do with the thousands of migrants being displaced due to the conflicts in the Middle East and the North Africa. And the situation isn’t much better in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security is currently suffering from its largest backlog of affirmative asylum cases. At the end of fiscal year 2011, the Department had 9,274 affirmative asylum cases pending. The number grew to 73,103 by the end of December 2014, a 700% increase.
The United States has come under fire lately for not doing more to help Christians seeking asylum from the Middle East. Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart from Syria, while visiting the United States, called America’s reluctance to offer persecuted Middle East Christians asylum “unjust.” The Center for American Progress has also called upon the U.S. to do more to preserve Christianity in the Middle East and to help displaced Christians from the Middle East.
If you are interested in more information about applying for asylum in the United States, you can visit the USCIS website about asylum, the asylum section of my website, or read past blogs of mine about asylum. Because of the complicated nature of the asylum application process, you should contact a skilled asylum immigration attorney.