By Aaron Earls
At a time when the number of refugees worldwide has jumped, the United States has resettled the fewest in 10 years, according to an analysis of United Nations and U.S. State Department data by Pew Research.
In fiscal 2016, which began in October 2015 and ended in September 2016, almost 85,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. In fiscal 2017, that number fell to just under 54,000. Almost half of those were admitted in the last few months of 2016.
From January through September 2017, only 28,000 refugees came to the U.S.
“If the number of refugees worldwide remains the same as in 2016 and if few refugees enter the U.S. for the rest of 2017, the U.S. is on track to accept just 0.2 percent of the world’s refugee population—far less than the historic average of 0.6 percent,” says the Pew report.
The global refugee population has increased dramatically—up nearly 50 percent since 2013.
Since 1980, however, the U.S. has welcomed close to 3 million refugees, the most of any country.
Christianity has been the primary religion of refugees admitted to the U.S. Since 2002, 46 percent of all refugees resettled in America (425,000) have been Christian. A third (33 percent) have been Muslim.
The percentages are similar in 2017. Christians (47 percent) are the largest group, followed by Muslims (43 percent). Around 9 percent are other religions, including Hindus and Buddhists. Fewer than 1 percent have no religious affiliation.
Slightly less than half of all refugees welcomed in the U.S. since 2002 have been 20 years old or younger. Just over half have been male.
Since 2002, refugees have increasingly come from Africa and the Middle East. Asia and the Americas have seen their numbers drop.
Europe, while down from the highs of the late 1990s and early 2000s, has seen an uptick in the number of refugees coming to America in the last few years.
As these refugees come to America, however, they find churches more likely to fear them than help them.
Close to half of Protestant pastors (44 percent) say their church has a sense of fear about global refugees coming to the United States, according to a recent Lifeway Research survey.
While 86 percent say Christians have a responsibility to sacrificially care for refugees, only 19 percent say their church is involved in caring for refugees overseas. Even fewer (8 percent) say they are doing something to care for refugees locally.
This is troubling to Chris Pappalardo, coauthor of One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics.
“Too much of the contemporary rhetoric about refugees either implies or outright states we are dealing with people completely unlike us. We can’t trust ‘those people.’ This is shameful,” he says.
“Refugees are people whom God created, whom God loves, and whom He expects us to love as well.”
Pew found that once refugees are here in the U.S., most end up in a handful of states. Since 2002, the top 10 states for refugee resettlement—California, Texas, New York, Florida, Washington, Minnesota, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania—have welcomed 57 percent of all accepted refugees.
According to the report, “Southern states have seen the most notable increase in the annual share of resettled refugees in the United States.” In 2015, 32 percent of all refugees made their new homes in the South.
One Georgia pastor noticed the growing ethnic diversity around his church and decided to be intentional about reaching his new neighbors.
After hearing his town’s mayor say 57 languages were spoken daily at the local high school, Mark Hearn, pastor of First Baptist Church Duluth, Georgia, spent “six months forming a biblical strategy that I shared with the church in a Sunday morning message.”
Now, people from 41 different nations have become members or partners in ministry. The church has added live interpretation of its services into three other languages, with the hope of adding a fourth soon.
“After experiencing the spiritual dynamics of a multicultural church, I do not ever desire to return to a monocultural world,” says Hearn.
“The beautiful picture of heavenly worship in Revelation 7:9 might be beyond our comfort zone, but it is happening every week in my presence. I feel incredibly blessed.”
- When the Nations Come to Us: Global Migration is Giving the Church an Incredible Opportunity to Share the Good News With the World
- Strangers Next Door: How the Church Can Respond in the Age of Migration
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.