The United States government is afraid to work directly with persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria lest it be deemed a “crusader army”, according to a leading American religious rights advocate.

Up until the day before the U.S. State Department declared the atrocities of the so-called Islamic State to be genocide, it was planning to designate only Yazidis as victims, said Nina Shea, the director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

“The U.S. […] has a complex that it doesn’t want to look like a ‘crusader army,'” she added on Friday 8 July at International Christian Concern’s first annual conference on the suffering Church.

Detailing what she believes is lack of “sympathy” by Washington to Christians, Shea said “Christians comprised 10 per cent of the population of Syria before the war five years ago, they constitute less than one per cent of the refugee resettlement in the United States.”

“The United States as a government is absolutely indifferent and keeps its distance from oppressed Christian minorities,” the international human-rights lawyer of more than 30 years said.

In May 2016, the Daily Telegraph quoted an Iraqi Assyrian priest warning indigenous Christians could be gone from Iraq “in five years”.