Whatever the historical facts may be, Christians around the globe are experiencing unprecedented suffering and much of the traditionally Christian West seems to be alarmingly indifferent.
In planning and delivering assistance to Iraqi refugees, the West—and particularly the United States, which has taken primary responsibility—should not ignore the plight of Christians. It may seem odd to voice this concern. After all, President Obama specifically mentioned Christians in his statements about American action. But Mideast Christians are often an afterthought for the United States, and it seems they are in this situation again.Movsesian piece is helpful overall, but it also strikes a false note or two. Like so many people who are reluctant to appeared biased in favor of one political side or another and who wish to be even-handed in their criticism, he says something I think to be just plain silly:
A Wall Street Journal report, which quotes unnamed members of the Obama administration, indicates the threat of genocide against Yazidis was the primary factor in the American decision to intervene. “This was qualitatively different from even the awful things that we’ve confronted in different parts of the region because of the targeted nature of it, the scale of it, the fact that this is a whole people,” the official said.
That is a rather myopic view of the situation. We’re offering assistance to 40,000 Yazidi refugees whom ISIS has driven from their homes and threatened to slaughter. Great—we should. But in the weeks before ISIS turned on the Yazidis, it had displaced more than 100,000 Christians from their homes and driven them into the desert.
ISIS eliminated major Christian communities in Mosul and Qaraqosh, and the U.S. responded only with a concerned statement from its U.N. ambassador. And this is to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have become refugees since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If genocide correctly describes what threatens the Yazidis, it also describes what’s happening to Iraqi Christians. Indeed, many of these Christians are the descendants of people who suffered genocide at the beginning of the twentieth century.
There are reasons why America tends to treat Mideast Christians as an afterthought. Mideast Christians lack a natural constituency in American public life. They are, as one commentator observed, too foreign for the Right and too Christian for the Left.The notion that Mideast Christians don't get attention from the Right because they're too foreign is simply nonsense. Conservatives have been screaming for people to pay attention to this for several years now, but until recently, neither Washington nor the major media seemed interested. Whether it was because it was Christians who were being persecuted or some other reason I can't say, but the fact is that conservatives have repeatedly raised this issue, sometimes stridently, so often that I wonder if Movsesian just hasn't been paying attention.
In any case he continues:
Most of our foreign policy elites have a blind spot about them. And I don’t mean to single out the Obama administration. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute has recounted her attempts to get the Bush administration to focus on the plight of Iraq’s Christians, only to be told by Condoleezza Rice that assistance for Christians would make the United States appear sectarian.It's astonishing that Rice was afraid to address the plight of Iraq's Christians because it would give the impression that we care more about Christians than about others. It seems that neither Rice nor Obama would have come to the aid of the refugees on Mt. Sinjar had they been Christians rather than Yazidis because that would've sent the message that we're partial to Christians. Is there something about Washington that makes it impossible to see people as people rather than as members of some identity group? Movsesian writes:
[I]n the Middle East and around the world, Christians are often targeted for persecution in particularly severe ways, and the human rights community often seems not to notice. Indeed, as Pope Francis explained in remarks at a conference...in Rome this summer, Christians suffer perhaps the largest share of religious persecution in the world today.If we stand by and do nothing, say nothing, and act as if there's nothing we can do about these slaughters since they're happening over there, then what's the difference between us and the German citizens who knew the holocaust was occurring and did nothing? They, at least had reason to fear for their lives. What do we have to fear?
[The Pope said this]:It causes me great pain to know that Christians in the world submit to the greatest amount of such discrimination. Persecution against Christians today is actually worse than in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs today than in that era.
And if we ignore them simply because they are Christians who are suffering then we are despicable.
And if we ignore them because we simply don't want to be bothered then we deserve the same fate.