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Op/Ed: Americans More Likely to Support Christian Refugees

Public Policy Researcher’s Experiment Shows Effect of Religious Identity on Charitable Giving

By Joannie Tremblay-Boire and Aseem Prakash

refugee family

AP Photo/Dar Yasin

A Rohingya refugee family walks back with relief material collected from aid agencies inside Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh last November.

Although people from Muslim countries make up a large portion of the world’s refugee population, in the United States at least, they’re less likely to be the beneficiaries of charity than Christian refugees, according to a new study by Joannie Tremblay-Boire, an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy, and Aseem Prakash, Walker Family Professor at the University of Washington.

In an essay published yesterday in The Conversation, they recount the results of an experiment to measure the phenomenon. According to their findings, Americans were generally willing to support hypothetical Muslim and Christian refugees alike, with a slight edge to Christians—something they attribute to an affinity for fellow group members common across religions. But they did find one way that Islamophobia appeared to creep in: a reluctance to support charities run by Muslims.

An estimated 70 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced, according to the United Nations. Every two seconds, someone in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar is being forced to leave their home.

Although 24.5 million of these people have fled their countries to escape conflicts and persecution, room for them isn’t opening up at the same pace. That’s creating a global crisis at a time when the number of refugees stands at record levels. Governments are taking actions that address the refugee crisis but are failing to fully meet the need. Charities, such as Mercy Corps, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee continue to play a role. That work is funded by donations.

About half of refugees who entered the U.S. in 2016 and 2017 were Muslim, as were more than three-quarters of refugees who arrived in Europe between 2010 and 2016. Because most Americans identify as Christians, and Islamophobia appears to be on the rise among Americans, we wanted to see whether anti-Muslim sentiment or religious identity might be affecting the willingness in this country to support nonprofits that help refugees abroad.

Read the rest of the article at The Conversation.



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