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Pence rebukes U.N. efforts to help Christians, announces Middle East trip

“I hope that when (the vice president) visits the Middle East, and particularly Egypt, Pence will discuss both the urgent problem of jihadi violence against Christians and the long-running problems of discrimination and intercommunal violence, about which the government of President Sissi has done very little,” Dunne said to Catholic News Service, speaking of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

“I hope he will also question whether the Egyptian government’s campaign against terrorism — which involves extensive human rights abuses and political repression — is really effective, or whether it might be fueling the very radicalization that ends up brutalizing Christians,” Dunne added.

Absent from the vice president’s Oct. 25 speech was the Trump administration’s stance toward refugees from some of the countries where Christians are facing some of the violence he spoke about, including Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

Though the vice president said in his speech “America will support these people,” meaning Christians and other religious minorities facing persecution in the Middle East, the day before, on Oct. 24, the administration announced stricter restrictions for refugees wanting to come to the United States from 11 countries. Though the countries were not named, news agency Reuters reported that they were mostly from the Middle East and Africa, which in the past included many persecuted Christians seeking refuge in the U.S.

“Of nearly 2,600 Iranian refugees resettled in the United States last year, for instance, a majority were Christian,” Reuters reported.

In Defense of Christians, which hosted the speech, has repeatedly asked Congress that any relief for Christians in the Middle East, in terms of U.S. policy, include the admission of Christian refugees from certain nations where persecution is particularly grave. In this year’s In Defense of Christians summit policy agenda, the organization says it supports a bill that would provide immediate relief to minority religious groups in Iraq and Syria, particularly Christians and Yezidis.

“These communities would receive special humanitarian status and refugee resettlement priority in the U.S.,” the organization says on its website.

Most of the Trump administration’s efforts, however, have focused on allowing fewer, not more, refugees into the United States, and have sought greater restrictions for those coming from majority-Muslim countries, including some nations where Christians in Middle East are facing peril.

In late September, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, voiced objections about the historical low level of refugee admissions under Trump, who will limit the number of refugees the United States accepts to 45,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.

It is the lowest admission level for persons fleeing persecution that the U.S. has accepted since the 1980s, when the executive branch was allowed to set the caps under the Refugee Act.

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