There’s perhaps no more pressing crisis in the world than the fate of refugees fleeing the Middle East.

ISIS extremists are threatening Christians and other minority groups in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere and millions are trying to escape.

Voice of the Year

Into this arena stepped Mark Arabo, a local Iraqi Christian activist.

This year, Arabo’s voice on the issue has been heard nationally. He’s done the rounds on “Hannity,” MSNBC and CNN. Each time, his basic message is the same: Christians in the Middle East are facing a genocide and the United States and other countries have to do more to help.

The amplification of Arabo’s voice is all the more startling given his day job. He runs a trade group of corner grocers and liquor stores, many of which are owned by people of Iraqi Christian descent.

Arabo has forced himself into the national conversation because he works hard, is telegenic and markets himself. He compiled a list of thousands of threatened Iraqi Christians and called it “Arabo’s List.” Local news station KUSI picked up on the imagery and went so far as to call him “a modern day Oskar Schindler.” Arabo himself has called his efforts to get Christians out of Iraq an “underground railroad.” He openly flirted with running for local political office this year.

Many more established Iraqi Christian leaders across the country have called out Arabo for embellishing his advocacy role and for taking divisive positions within the movement.

But here in San Diego, which has the second-largest population of Iraqi Christians in the country, no one from that community has a larger voice than Arabo.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year.

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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