Ignoring Christian Persecution Goes Back Before Obama

From First Things: “Forgetting the Christians.”

This past weekend, the United States began to intervene in the humanitarian crisis unfolding in northern Iraq. The Islamist group ISIS has made a lightning conquest of much of the region, persecuting religious minorities, and even some Sunni Muslims, everywhere it goes. In response, the U.S. has begun air drops of food and water to up to 40,000 Yazidi refugees stranded on Mt. Sinjar, where ISIS militants have them surrounded. And the U.S. undertook airstrikes against ISIS positions threatening the Kurdish city of Erbil, where hundreds of American advisers are stationed. Other Western nations are getting involved as well. The United Kingdom dropped supplies to the Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar, and France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, visited Erbil to assess the situation.

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. 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.

As this article well documents, America’s indifference toward the oppression and slaughter of Christians in the Middle East has not originated with the Obama Administration. It is damnable that two professing Christian Presidents in a row have been so callous toward those they claim with their lips are their family.

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.

Dandy. Another supposed Christian saying politics and geopolitical “optics” are more important than saving the lives of brothers and sisters. Many will, indeed, reach the Final Judgment proclaiming their faith, only to have Jesus say those shattering words: “Depart from me… I never knew you.”

A statement of faith is just words and information. Each of us only truly learns what we authentically believe through actions—especially actions under duress, and in times where life and death are on the line. So-called faith is a dead thing when not evidenced by works founded upon that claim, as the Apostle James wrote.

I say to this Administration, and past ones: Repent and believe, while there is time.