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The governments of the Netherlands, Great Britain, and other European countries have refused asylum to many Iraqis, including thousands of individual Christians. But this year, evangelical leaders and human rights groups are pushing to resettle Christian refugees in groups to help them maintain their church identity.

The stream of Christian refugees from Iraq and surrounding countries has increased in recent years, though exact numbers do not exist because refugees are not counted by religious affiliation, said Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice, the European arm of the American Center for Law and Justice.

United Nations estimates average 1.4 million refugees from Iraq, and half of those may be Christian, according to Thomas Schirrmacher, director of the International Institute for ReligiousFreedom and speaker on human rights for the World EvangelicalAlliance.

After a high-profile church attack in Baghdad killed 58 in late October amid renewed violence against Christians, some church leaders are urging Iraqi Christians to leave their country.

Last month, the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe, an organization devoted to European unity, formally addressed the plight of Middle Eastern Christians for the first time.

At the meeting, the council adopted a recommendation on "Violence Against Christians in the Middle East," which states that the council will monitor religious violence in the Middle East, offer some individuals religion-based asylum, and help relocate Christian refugees.

"We needed to keep the problem on the political agenda and make sure that the European institutions continue to protect the rights and the security as much as possible of these minorities," said Puppinck, ...

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April 2011

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