- - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The official and public indifference to the continued persecution and murder of Christians in the Middle East is a scandal of enormous proportions. Only a few Internet websites are devoted to the rescue of persecuted Christians. The media, like the president, is blind to outrage. Expressions of concern by the leaders of the West are few. The fact is that Christians face more persecution, in more countries, than any other religious group.

U.S. Christian sources estimate that 180 Christians are killed in 60 countries monthly merely for their faith. Many of these are in maniacal environments, such as in North Korea. But there are incidents in nominally secular India, for example, where the current administration traces its roots to Hindu chauvinism and Muslim Pakistan.

Since 2011, the official and legal refugee numbers in the United States include 2,000 Muslims and only 53 Christians. Syrian Christians, who are generally better educated and more affluent, have come to the United States through regular visa channels and have earned permanent residence. President Obama opposes legislation which would fast-track Christian refugees, despite the fact that nearly a third of Syria’s Christians, about 600,000 of them, have fled persecution by al Qaeda and the Islamic State, sometimes called ISIS or ISIL.

The Obama administration is eager, as usual, to avoid offending or provoking ISIS. Saving Christians might be regarded as involved in the “the clash of civilizations.” Mr. Obama has been deeply concerned since he became the president about “Islamophobia” and antagonism toward American Muslims and the worldwide Islamic community. Persecution of Christians, not so much. The reluctance to defend Christians, however, began in the George W. Bush administration. His secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, once told a refugee aid official that the White House did not intervene in ”sectarian” issues.

Christians in the Middle East were treated more sympathetically by the old autocratic regimes — including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — than under their successors with a strong Muslim cast. Syrian Christians tended to stay loyal to Bashar Assad rather than join opponents of his regime. The various Christian sects, some “in communion” with the Roman Catholic Church and others related to Eastern Orthodox variants, and still others unique to the region and India, do not want to give up ancient claims to their homes.

ISIS on many occasions has beheaded Christians when it has taken over traditionally Christian villages. Other ethnic groups date from thousands of years before the birth of Christ. They get the choice of converting, fleeing or paying jizya, a tax on “the people of the book,” i.e., Christians and Jews.

Mr. Obama did finally refer to Christian and other minorities last fall when he said, ”We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.” When ISIS threatened to eradicate the Yazidis, an ancient sect combining elements of the region’s major religions, the United States beat back the terrorists with intensive bombing and intervention by U.S. Special Forces.

Proposals to take in large numbers of Christians from the Middle East have been called a violation of the constitutional prohibition of religious favoritism. But admission of refugees has often been based on a particular ethnic group targeted by oppressors abroad. Christians constitute such a group.

Fear of Muslim propagandists is no excuse for allowing Christians in the Middle East to twist slowly, slowly in the wind, waiting for the executioner’s scimitar. Islamic extremists, obsessed as they are with the “crusaders” of a thousand years ago, must not intimidate President Obama and his administration. Saving Christians from “religious” thugs and killers is a worthy and authentic human rights cause.

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