The lack of public outcry over the continued persecution and murder of Christians in the Middle East is a scandal of enormous proportions. Only a few websites devoted to possible rescuing these victims dogs the internet. But pronouncements from public figures and even the leaders of Western Christendom are few and far between.
The fact is that Christians today face more persecution in more countries than any other religious group.
U.S. Christians sources estimate that 180 Christians are killed in 60 countries monthly for pursuit of their faith. Many of these are in notorious environments such as North Korea. But there are continuing incidents in nominally secular India, for example, where the current administration has its roots in Hindu chauvinism and in its twin, Muslim Pakistan.
Christians But since 2011 — of refugees officially settled in the U.S. — just over 2,000 have been Muslim but only 53 Christians. It is true that particularly Syrian Christian refugees often more affluent, have made their way to the U.S. through ordinary visa channels and permanent residence. But the Obama administration opposes legislation which would fast-track Christian refugees. That’s despite the fact that nearly a third of Syria’s Christians, about 600,000, have fled, harried by extremist groups like the Nusra Front [an Al Qaida affiliate] and now Daesh (ISIL).
The Obama Administration downplaying of Christians in the refugee crisis is based on its fear such support would be viewed and used by Daesh. Or that it might be considered in the U.S. as part of the argument of “the clash of civilizations”. As in his earliest public Mideast pronouncements, Obama has argued inordinately supposed “Islamophobia” and antagonism toward American Muslims and the world Islamic community. But the reluctance to take on the issue goes back to the Bush Administration when Condoleezza Rice told a refugee aid official the White House did not intervene in ‘‘sectarian’’ issues.
It’s also true that Mideast Christians, generally, suffered less under the former autocratic regimes – including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – than they have under their successors which often have a strong Muslim cast. Syrian Christians, for example, tended to stay loyal to Basher al-Assad rather than join the originally peaceful opponents of his bloody regime. The various Christian sects, some “in communion” with the Roman Catholic Church, others related to Eastern Orthodoxy, and others unique to the region and India, do not want to give up their ancient claims to their historic homes.
But having said all this, the toll of Christians in the region has been horrendous. In many instances Daesh has simply beheaded locals where it has taken over traditional Christian villages. These ethnicities date back thousands of years even preceding their conversion as the earliest followers of Christ.
They have been given the choice of converting, death flight, or paying jizya — a special tax on “followers of the book” meaning Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.
Obama did get around to referring to Christian and other minorities last fall when he said ‘‘we cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.’’ And when Daesh threatened to eradicate the Yazidis, an ancient syncretic sect combining elements of the region’s major religions, the U.S. beat back the terrorists with intensive bombing and Special Forces intervention.
But proposals to permit a large entry of Mideast Christians have been denounced as a violation of the constitution prohibition against religious favoritism. But in fact admission of refugees has often been based on a particular ethnic group targeted by oppressors abroad. And in this instance Christians constitute such a group.
The argument that more forceful rhetoric and more specific protections for Christians worldwide, but particularly in the Mideast, must be made. The charge of “crusaders” – distorted as it is in all aspects – by Daesh and other Islamic terrorists should not be an excuse for not taking up the cudgels for an important and generally neglected human rights cause.