By Helen Gibson
Verses throughout the Bible instruct God’s people to love foreigners and extend hospitality.
Yet white evangelical Christians are the group of Americans least likely to think the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees, a new Pew Research survey shows.
In the survey, conducted in April and May, 25 percent of white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees. This is significantly lower than the percentages of white mainline Protestants (43 percent), Catholics (50 percent), and black Protestants (63 percent) who say the same.
A narrow majority of the general public—51 percent—say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines a refugee as “any person forced to flee from their country by violence or persecution.” According to the UNHCR, there were 22.5 million refugees worldwide by the end of 2016 — the highest number of refugees the world has ever seen.
The attitudes of religiously unaffiliated people are almost opposite to the attitudes of white evangelicals, Pew notes. While 65 percent of religiously unaffiliated adults said the U.S. does have a responsibility to accept refugees, 68 percent of white evangelicals said the U.S. does not.
A January 2016 Lifeway Research survey found that while 86 percent of Protestant senior pastors said Christians have a responsibility to actively care for refugees, only 19 percent said their church actually does so for refugees overseas. Eight percent said their church cares for refugees locally.
In the Lifeway Research survey, 44 percent of Protestant pastors — and 56 percent of Baptist pastors — said their congregations had a sense of fear about refugees coming into the U.S.
The new data from Pew comes as the U.S. is accepting fewer refugees than it has in years past. In the first five months of fiscal 2018, about 10,500 refugees entered the U.S. By that point in the previous fiscal year, which runs from the beginning of October to the end of September, 39,100 refugees had entered the country, according to State Department data analyzed by Pew.
This fiscal year, President Donald Trump plans to allow only 45,000 refugees to be resettled in the U.S. The New York Times and other news agencies report this is the lowest cap on U.S. refugee resettlement since 1980 — the year the president was first given the power to set a limit on the number of refugees entering the country each year.
- Fewer Refugees Arrive in U.S., But Churches Still Struggle With Response
- Churches Twice As Likely to Fear Refugees As Help Them
- How Should Christians Respond to the Refugee Crisis?
HELEN GIBSON (@_HelenGibson_) is a freelance writer in Cadiz, Kentucky.