Monday, January 30, 2017

On Christian Syrian Refugees

A lot of statistics are floating around the internet about Christian Syrian refugees, and almost all of them are based on assumptions that ignore the situation of Christians living in Syria. In fact there are very few Christians fleeing Syria because they tend to live in areas which have not been hardest hit by the conflict.  Almost all refugees fleeing Syria are Sunni Muslims simply because almost all of the fighting has take place in Sunni areas.

Christian Population centers in Syria

Here’s a typical evaluation of the numbers of Syrian Christian refugees, taken from National Review: 
The United States has accepted 10,801 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 are Christian. Not 56 percent; 56 total, out of 10,801. That is to say, one-half of 1 percent. The BBC says that 10 percent of all Syrians are Christian, which would mean 2.2 million Christians. . . .

Herein lies the problem: This assumes that Christians are dispersed evenly throughout Syria and have suffered equally in the fighting.  In fact, that is not the case.  Some Christians have fled their homes because of fighting, especially from Aleppo and Hasakah, but also in much smaller numbers from other cities like Homs and Hama. Most Christians live in areas (mainly large cities) that have been and still remain under government control.  For them, there has been nothing to flee. They are still living in their homes. 

Christians are more affluent than the average Syrian Muslim, and have better options for remaining in Syria, or at least in the nearby region.  Some have come to Lebanon, where they are readily accepted into the nation’s substantial Christian minority. 

The arguments about why Christians are not in refugee camps are made by people who are simply inventing statistics and are unaware of the cultural dynamics. If there are 2.2 million Syrian Christians (a reasonable figure), and 25% of Syrians have fled their country, then they reason that there must be a half-million Syrian Christian refugees outside Syria. A Newsweek article was based around this purely invented figure, and even suggested that there might be as many as one million Christian refugees:

The truth is that Christians have better options, including staying at home, and are using them.  The same is true for Alawites, Druze, and other Syrian religious minorities. The rebellion is largely Sunni, and the fighting is taking place in Sunni areas.  This is why almost all refugees are Sunni.  Everyone living in the camps is Sunni. So, almost all of the refugees with the direst need are Sunni. We should not be passing over those with the greatest need to favor those who usually have better options.