Time for a Christian mobilization
While the U.S. Protestant Mainline churches, now joined by Pope Francis, seem to have unlimited concern for such economic-political issues as global warming, there is little public clamor for Christians around the world under threat of persecution and even annihilation.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Middle East, the fountainhead of the religion, where some of the oldest Christian minorities are being savaged and forced to immigrate at the risk of their lives.
In its zeal to avoid accusations of Islamophobia, apparently, the State Dept. is not only not taking up the cudgels for these minorities, but in several instances banning foreign Christian activists from coming to the U.S. to evangelize for them. Sister Diana, an influential Iraqi Christian leader, for example, scheduled. to advocate for persecuted Christians in the Mideast, recently was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department even though she had visited the U.S. before, most recently in 2012.
Christians in the Mideast — including Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan — today are estimated at only 4 percent of the population from the 14 percent of the immediate post-World War era population. One-third of the 600,000 Syrian Christians have fled. A third of Iraq’s Christians,1.5 million in 2003, remain today. Many of Iran’s estimated half million Christians have been imprisoned even though Armenian and Assyrian Orthodox Christianity is technically tolerated under strict sharia rules of subordination. In Pakistan, the tiny Christian minority is under siege from a so-called controversial blasphemy law, which has led to assasinations of moderate government officials as well as incarceration and murder of Christians.
Ironically, if this trend continues, there will be virtually no Christians in the Middle East region of its birth, except in Israel, the only place where they have freedom of worship today.
U.S. intervention on behalf of these persecuted Christians has been minimal.
There have been nomial protests against religious discrimination, against the Communist government of Vietnam, for example. But it is questionable whether these have been more than pro forma, especially given the fact that the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party was recently given chief of state and government protocol when he was invited to Washington, ironically on the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Republic of Vietnam government in Saigon.
Given the general disorder of the foreign policy strategies of the Obama Administration, it may be too much to expect any initiative from that quarter on the issue. What is needed is a mobilization of American Christians, perhaps modeling their efforts on the role of Jewish activists for U.S. policy against anti-Semitism abroad and in support of Israel.
That ought to begin with extensive Congressional hearings on the issue. And, in turn, the Christian churches and other organizations need to call for economic and other sanctions which have proved so effective when applied assiduously at critical points to foreign economies.
Freedom of conscience is one of the elements of modernization that has to come in Muslim-majority countries if the war on Islamic terrorism is to be brought to an end in the foreseeable future. It is part and parcel of a reform of Islam itself which more enlightened members of the Muslim leadership have called for, if in less numbers and with less vigor than would be necessary to establish new tolerant secular societies.
That is why an effort to halt the deprivations against Christians in the Mideast and elsewhere is not only a necessary part of the U.S. promotion of worldwide human rights, but also a powerful political weapon in the fight against terrorism and for international stability.