- - Thursday, January 7, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Twelve years ago there were a million Christians in Iraq, now reduced to about a quarter of that number. The plight of Christians throughout the Middle East is desperate. The Islamic State seeks to eradicate them, as Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has publicly proclaimed.

When the Muslim Brotherhood was brought to power in Egypt, with the assistance of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the long suppressed fundamentalist political organization unleashed its quest for Islamic supremacy by launching pogroms against Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

The Copts are one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. Had the military not seized power from the reactionary regime of Mohammed Morsi, the fate of the Copts would have been indistinguishable from that of their brethren in ISIS-controlled territories.

Even so, the Obama administration sought to bring Mr. Morsi’s fundamentalist henchmen back to power.

Pope Francis has termed the persecution of Christians in the Middle East genocide.

Extermination and depravity are common denominators of all genocides. But the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians stands in stark contrast to the genocide of the Jewish Holocaust because unlike the Nazis, who tried to conceal their crimes against humanity, the Islamists revel in them and propagate them on social media to recruit young Muslims to join them in the butchery.

Last year, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that Americans fighting abroad as jihadists create a new threat for America. The Somali community that was given refuge in Minnesota has been a breeding ground for Islamist recruitment, less among the older refugees than their offspring. The London Daily Mail found that in the 18 months preceding November of 2015, there had been some 70 cases of ISIS-related terror activities in America.

Even so, the construction of our refugee policy gives preference to Muslims, not to the remnant of Christians or other minorities like the Yazidis that are being exterminated and sold into slavery. These refugees are not a security threat. They are not going to shoot up a holiday party or blow up a marathon race.

Refugees must come from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps, and many Christians, Yazidis and other minorities are afraid to enter those camps as they are controlled by Muslims, who are not welcoming to non-Muslims.

This means that Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis, and other minority refugees are represented in far lower numbers than they should be. For them, the door to America is all but closed and the Obama administration is making no accommodation to change the policy that keeps them out. The Iraqi and Syrian Christians are appealing to Israel to resettle them.

In his Dec. 23, 2015 Christmas address, President Obama lamented the “unspeakable violence and persecution” that have driven Christians from their homelands.

These are lands they lived in long before Islam appeared on the world’s stage.

Even so, the president’s lamentations will not change his refugee policy to accommodate the unique and difficult situation in which Christians and other non-Muslim minorities find themselves.

Moreover, Mr. Obama has failed to address the situation Christians have traditionally faced in Muslim-majority societies. When he says that church bells at Christmas are now silent where they have rung for centuries, he fails to acknowledge that church bells have been ringing in Syria and Iraq for only the last 100 years.

As theologian Mark Durie notes, under the implementation of dhimmi rules, church bells ceased ringing in the 7th century, just as Hamas has now done in Gaza and ISIS has done in the area under its control. Instead of bells, churches had to use gongs, musical instruments which were struck by hand.

The silent church bells theme is indicative of the administration’s failed understanding of the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Without something more than lamentations and public announcements about their plight, the Christians in the Middle East face extermination. The administration needs to take a serious look at the UNHCR camps that are disproportionately excluding non-Muslims, for unless it does so, Christians in the Middle East and their centuries-old culture will become like the Mizrachi (Middle Eastern) Jews — a people whose culture existed for centuries and was extinguished in a fleeting historical moment. Fortunately for the Mizrachi, they had Israel. Christians in the Middle East really have practically nowhere.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.


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