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Frustrated with Biden, evangelical leaders are tightening the screws, calling resettlement of Afghan refugees a 'moral urgency'

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Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021.
Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
  • In a letter, evangelical leaders express frustration with the slow pace of refugee resettlements.

  • The US is on track to accept fewer than 10,000 refugees this fiscal year, a record low.

  • Currently, the US only accepts refugees who have already left Afghanistan.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Evangelical Christian leaders, in a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday, said the resettlement of vulnerable people from Afghanistan is of the "utmost moral urgency" in the face of potential religious persecution.

"As Christians, we believe that each person is made with intrinsic value in the image of God, and we cannot treat any person's life as expendable," states the letter, signed by leaders of groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals, Bethany Christian Services, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

As Insider reported this week, the Biden administration has resettled fewer than 500 refugees from Afghanistan and is on track to resettle under 10,000 refugees overall by the end of the 2021 fiscal year, a record low.

Myal Greene, a signatory on the letter and president of World Relief, a Christian organization that helps resettle refugees, said in a statement that he had for months urged the White House to speed up its evacuation of vulnerable Afghans, suggesting that many could be hosted in places such as Guam for further vetting, if required, before resettlement. "[W]e've been frustrated by the administration's failure to heed this call thus far," he said.

In their letter, the evangelical leaders urge the administration to keep its promise toward those who worked with the US government in Afghanistan, many of whom qualify for Special Immigrant Visas. The Biden administration has evacuated about 2,000 such people - out of a pool of more than 50,000.

But "there are many other Afghans likely to be at risk of persecution under Taliban rule," the evangelicals write, "including Christians and other religious minorities, women and girls who have pursued the opportunity for education, and others associated with the US presence in Afghanistan who may not qualify" for those visas.

Currently the US only accepts refugees from Afghanistan who have already fled the country; roughly 2.5 million of them are registered with the United Nations' Refugee Agency. Those still inside Afghanistan are forced to make a dangerous journey to a third country before they can even apply for assistance. That needs to change, the leaders argue.

"The United States should do everything reasonably possible to protect these individuals and, should they make the decision that they must flee as refugees, prioritize them for resettlement to the United States," the letter states.

The evangelical lobbying comes amid a far-right campaign against the resettlement of vulnerable Afghans. Stephen Miller, former President Donald Trump's immigration advisor, claimed President Biden was using the collapse of the Afghan government in Kabul as a "pretext" to accept refugees, while Fox News' Tucker Carlson warned his viewers that Afghan men, women, and children would "invade" their neighborhoods.

Daniel Patterson, acting president of the ethics and religious liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, challenged such rhetoric. In a statement, he said Christians "are called to be a voice for the vulnerable." Instead of demonizing Afghans, he said political leaders must "do everything possible to help those refugees who are fleeing for their lives."

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Read the original article on Business Insider