Mobilizing the Christians

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The churches must demand a tougher line against Middle East persecution
A man is comforted by others as he mourns over Egyptian Coptic Christians who were captured in Libya and killed by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, outside of the Virgin Mary church in the village of el-Aour, near … 
By THE WASHINGTON TIMES – – Thursday, July 30, 2015

The mainline Protestant churches in the United States, joined by Pope Francis, have shown great concern for many fashionable secular causes, such as eliminating poverty, promoting peace and promoting fear of global warming, but for Christians around the world under threat of persecution and annihilation, not so much.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Middle East, the birthplace of religious faith where some of the oldest Christian minorities and its faithful are savaged and forced to immigrate at the risk of their lives.
In its zeal to avoid accusations of Islamophobia, the U.S. State Department is not only content to leave Christians to twist, slowly in the wind, but in several instances to bar foreign Christian activists to come to the United States to bear witness to their faith. Sister Diana, an influential leader of Christians in Iraq, was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department though she had visited the United States on other occasions, the most recent trip only two years ago.

Christians in the Middle East — prominently including Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan — now number only 4 percent of the population, down from 14 percent immediately after World War II. More than a third of the 600,000 Syrian Christians have fled to friendlier places, some to the United States. Only a third of Iraqi Christians, 1.5 million of them in 2003, remain in their native homeland today. Many of Iran’s estimated half million Christians have been imprisoned, though Armenian and Assyrian Orthodox Christianity is technically tolerated under strict Shariah rules of subordination. In Pakistan, the tiny Christian minority is under siege from a new blasphemy law from Muslims who fear their religion cannot withstand competing faiths. Many government officials of moderate views have been assassinated; others have been imprisoned, some to languish there under neither charge nor conviction.

If this continues there will soon be no Christians in the region, except in Israel, where Christians are free to worship as they please.

U.S. intervention on behalf of persecuted Christians has been grudging, often reluctant and usually ineffective. There are ritual protests against religious discrimination, such as those against the Communist government of Vietnam. In Vietnam the diplomatic protests have been filed only for the record, given the fact that the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party was recently accorded the welcome reserved for heads of state. There was no shortage of elaborate diplomatic trivia, an abundance of bells and whistles when he came to Washington on the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.

Given the confusion of the foreign policy strategies of the Obama administration, expecting effective initiative from this White House is a forlorn and futile hope. What is needed is a mobilization of American Christians, perhaps modeling efforts on the example of Jewish activists against anti-Semitism.

That could begin with congressional hearings; there’s plenty to listen to. Christian churches and other organizations should demand the imposition of economic and other sanctions which have proved so effective when applied to other foreign economies.

Freedom of conscience is the necessary goal in Muslim-majority countries if the war on Islamic terrorism is to be brought to a successful conclusion. Freedom of conscience is the right on which all other rights are based, and the only hope for the reform of Islam, which enlightened Muslim leaders have demanded.

The timidity of the United States, a reluctance to call out Muslim persecution of Christians, confuses everyone. Forceful calls to halt deprivations against Christians in the Middle East is not only necessary for the promotion of human rights in the dark corners of the globe, but are powerful weapons in the fight against terrorism and international instability.