(CNSNews.com) – The federal government has admitted 916 Syrian refugees into the United States since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) attacked Paris last November, and of that number four (0.4 percent) are Christians.
The remainder of the refugees admitted since the Nov. 13 attack deepened concerns about terrorist exploitation of Western nations’ refugee admission programs comprise 890 (97.2 percent) Sunni Muslims, three Shi’a, 18 other Muslims, and one individual described in State Department Refugee Processing Center data as “other religion.”
Of the four Christians, one is Orthodox, one Greek Orthodox, and the denominations of the other two are not given.
Earlier this month Secretary of State John Kerry announced in response to a legislative requirement that atrocities carried out by ISIS against Christians and other minorities in the areas it controls amount to genocide.
But for months administration officials from President Obama down have criticized Republicans, including some governors and current and former presidential candidates, for suggesting the government should prioritize Syrian Christians – or in Obama’s words, apply a “religious test” – in its refugee admission program.
Persecution on the grounds of religion is one of five grounds for determining whether an applicant should be granted refugee status, but the State Department says the U.S. program does not, and should not, prioritize one religion over another.
Obama has pledged to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. during fiscal year 2016, which began on October 1.
Since then, a total of 1,207 Syrian refugees have been admitted as of Monday. Of that number, 1,176 (97.3 percent) are Sunnis and nine (0.7 percent) are Christians. The rest are three Shi’a, 18 other Muslims, and one identified as “other religion.”
Millions of Syrians of all faiths have fled the fighting in their homeland since the civil war began with a violent government crackdown on peaceful protests in March 2011. Among them are at least 700,000 Christians, according to European Parliament estimates.
The Sunni/Christian ratio of all Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. since the conflict began – a total of 3,080 – is 2,895 Sunnis to 57 Christians, or 94 percent to 1.8 percent.
By contrast, around 74 percent of the Syrian population was Sunni Muslims and 10 percent was Christians at the start of the civil war.
More than 4.8 million Syrian refugees are now registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey (2.7 million), Lebanon (1.06 million), Jordan (636,000) and other countries in the region. More than 897,000 have sought asylum in Europe between April 2011 and December 2015.
The State Department refugee settlement program relies on UNHCR referrals at the initial stage of a refugee application process. But Syrian Christians are widely reported to be reluctant to register with the U.N.
After Kerry’s ISIS genocide determination, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced legislation giving priority status to members of religious minorities fleeing persecution at the hands of ISIS and other groups in Syria, and, enabling them to bypass the UNHCR and apply directly to the U.S. resettlement program.
The Religious Persecution Relief Act would also require the government to set aside 10,000 refugee places annually for Syrian religious minorities, for five years.