Christians Are Being Denied US Visas While 'Cradle of Christianity Is Wiped Off the Map,' Evangelicals Warn
A faith-based global ministry has initiated a "Fostering Families" program in which it's calling on over 1,000 churches in America to take in persecuted refugees from the ongoing crisis. Rev. Kevin Jessip, president of Global Strategic Alliance, said Christians are being wiped out from the Middle East, while at the same time being denied visas in the United States, and it's an urgent time for the rest of the Christian body to wake up and help.
"It's inappropriate for the Untied States of America to discriminate against a minority religion who is in dire need of asylum. These are proven cases at the UNHCR that we've seen of people who have been denied, and are in jeopardy of losing their lives," Jessip told The Christian Post in a phone interview on Thursday.
"Not only have they ran and lost everything, but now, in many cases, we are seeing people facing another impending threat, and that is starvation," he said, noting that most of the Christian refugees don't even have basic resources to provide food for themselves.
Grace Knodt, vice president of GSA, who also spoke with CP over the phone, noted the urgency of the situation.
"As far as our Christian brothers and sisters are concerned, they are facing imminent death, many of them," Knodt said.
The program's goal is to enroll a minimum of 1,000 American churches and embrace the refugees who are fleeing war and terrorism in Syria and the surrounding region by the millions.
"I believe that the church needs to wake up, and we need to revive that which is about to die. The very church, the body of Christ, is being eliminated in the Middle East, and the very cradle of Christianity, is being wiped off the map," Jessip added, drawing from Revelation 3:2 in the Bible.
"And if the rest of the Christian body does not awaken at this time and begin to move by the power of God's Holy Spirit and take action to help these people, we will answer for that one day. We have to do everything that we possibly can."
Many of these refugees have been making their way to Western European countries, stretching resoureces and national borders.
The GSA was formed to help protect the persecuted church and provide safe havens throughout the Middle East, and focuses on building alliances and supporting workers on the ground who are engaged with displaced marginalized people, Jessip told CP.
The organization has also been working with immigration services both globally and domestically; it has held meetings with U.S. congressmen, and spoken at the U.N. to highlight persecution of Jews and Christians on a global basis.
The Fostering Families program will provide asylum for refugees who are in the pipeline for resettlement, and for Christian refugees who right now have been denied visas to come into the U.S.
Jessip said that it's especially important to reach out now with a humanitarian effort of "epic and historic proportions," and revealed that several churches have already joined the effort and stated they are willing to foster more than one family.
"These proclamations will be submitted to the U.S. State Department, letting them know that these churches are ready to subsidize the cost for any and all resettlement, rather than burdening the U.S. tax payers," the GSA president continued.
"When the U.S. government is aware that the body of Christ is standing up and beginning to take action, once they are made aware of this initiative, they are very empathetic to helping these people and giving them a second chance at life again."
Other church leaders, such as Pope Francis, have also called on the Christian body to reach out to the refugees. Earlier in September, Francis urged every Catholic parish and religious community in Europe to take in at least one refugee family, noting that the Vatican would take two families itself.
President Barack Obama's administration has said it will allow at least 10,000 extra refugees in 2016 to come to America, but Jessip said that number is not high enough, and warned that many persecuted Christians are being denied visas.
"It's not large enough by any means. America in its past has transplanted entire communities of Somalian refugees into Minneapolis-St. Paul, and yet we've denied Christians visas to come into the Untied States. With Germany taking 800,000 to a million people, and with these European nations being overrun, the U.S. can be doing much more," he added.
Jessip noted that there will be several challenges with resettling refugees and helping them get acclimated to a completely different culture and system, and there will need to be an intelligent approach worked out.
With stories of Muslim refugees being baptized and converting to Christianity throughout Europe, such as with Iranian refugees seeking asylum in Germany, Jessip said such people are coming to know Christ firsthand.
"It is an incredible opportunity for the body of Christ to awaken, arise, take action, and help these people," he added.
There has been some controversy over religious considerations, however, with instances like Slovakia announcing that they will only take in Christian refugees, instead of Muslims.
On the other hand, Anglican leader Justin Welby, as well as Christian persecution watchdog groups, have warned that some government policies, like that of the U.K., are discriminating against Christians who are avoiding entering formal refugee camps populated by Sunni Muslims amid fears of attacks by Islamic radicals.
Jessip argued that both Muslims and Christians should be helped equally, but said that the media often does not portray just how much discrimination Christians have faced.
As for the Christian responsibility to help refugees from a biblical perspective, Jessip focused on Jesus' words in Matthew 25, where Christ said:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
The GSA president said that Christians "will have to answer for these things."
"And I believe that God has blessed America in such a way, that the body of Christ is the most empathetic body that there is," he continued. "We will give until it hurts."
Jessip reflected on the complacency in the U.S., with people often complaining about little things, while the reality is that on the other side of the Earth, "people are literally starving to death or running for their lives with only the clothes on their backs."
"I believe that we are in a kairos moment. And we have very little time to react to that. I think that we have to be obedient to the word of God, and begin to awaken this Church," he said.
More information on how people can get involved to help is available on the GSA website.