Tag Archives: Christian persecution

The scandal of Christian persecution

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, Moslem Pakistan.

But since 2011, of refugees official settlement 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.

The Obama Administration downplaying of Christians in the refugee crisis is based on its fear such support would be viewed and used by Daesh [ISI or ISIL]. 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 “Islamohobia” and antagonism toward American Moslems 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 Sadam 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 Chruch, 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”, that is, 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 has 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 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.



Time for a Christian mobilization

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.