Despite a foreign-policy mandate to speak out against religious persecution, the United States government has so far been silent on whether this epic religious cleansing of Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities from the heart of the Middle East ranks among the gravest of crimes.
The Obama administration maintains that its principal strategic response to the conflict in Syria is humanitarian, not military, and focused on human rights. In Syria as well as Iraq, the consequences of this policy have been shockingly deficient.
Unlike Muslims, who can conform and wait out ISIS until the day it is defeated, Christians, along with "polytheist" Yizidis, can don veils and give up cigarettes and alcohol, but, as non-Muslims, their very presence is an intolerable offense to the year-old "caliphate."
For the past year, these survivors have put their lives on hold in miserable conditions in church-run camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and nearby countries, while anxiously waiting for someone to liberate their hometowns.
The State Department is apparently trying to cover up an embarrassing, politically damaging, and possibly discriminatory act. In an e-mail sent to me on Thursday,
With Malice Toward 'Nun': Why Is the U.S. Barring a Persecuted Catholic Nun From Telling Her Story to Congress
Why is the United States barring a persecuted Iraqi Catholic nun — an internationally respected and leading representative of the Nineveh Christians who have been killed and deported by ISIS — from coming to Washington to testify about this catastrophe?
Still reeling from last week's news of the Islamist beheading of 21 Coptic Christian migrant workers in Libya, Middle Eastern Christians were again targeted by a large scale Islamist terror attack with thousands of victims Monday, in Syria. Islamic State jihadists laid siege to a string of Christian Assyrian villages, along the Khabour River, in northeastern Syria, kidnapping or killing scores of residents.
The horror in Libya could have come from a Hieronymus Bosch painting of hell: 21 knife-wielding figures hacking the heads off 21 young men in orange jumpsuits along the shoreline, blood staining the surf red.
Last week former congressman Frank Wolf released an important new human-rights report on Iraq's religious minorities, aptly entitled "Edge of Extinction." Detailing some of the Islamic terrorists' cruelest practices, particularly with respect to women and children, this documentation should serve as the opening salvo in the long-neglected battle of ideas over Islamic extremism.
Altogether, since 1954, Bishop Shi was held captive for over 40 years by the Communist government for his religion, making him one of the longest serving political prisoners of our age.
What lesson will Europe draw from the Charlie Hebdo massacre?
For the first time in 1,400 years, there will be no Christmas celebrations in Nineveh province, home to Iraq's largest remaining Christian community and largest non-Muslim minority, and a site of great biblical significance.
In a brief, nationally televised announcement on August 7th regarding the Islamic State, which invaded the multicultural, northern Nineveh Province of Iraq this summer, President Obama observed "these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yazidis."
The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, is continuing its two-month-old rampage across northern Iraq's large, multi-cultural Nineveh province, intensifying religious cleansing and further consolidating its power. Nineveh's Assyrian Christians report that Sunnis from throughout Iraq – including some from Kurdistan — have joined the some 10,000 jihadists to fight under the black banner of the Islamic State.
In recent years, Iraq's Christians have experienced relentless persecution by various extremist groups, and, along with a civil conflict in which the Christians remain neutral, it has taken a hard toll on their numbers.
Over two days last week, every one of Mosul's thousands of Christians fled the Sunni Jihadi invasion and they are not going back. All their ancient and beautiful churches and monasteries there will remain closed, and a handful have already been desecrated. In effect, a targeted religious cleansing of Christians has taken place in Iraq's second largest city and one known through much of the past 2,000 years as Nineveh, Iraq's Christian center.
Once upon a time, some of the Mosul Christians might have fled to Syria, but they now have few options. More will give up on the region altogether and join their relatives and former neighbors in Michigan, California, Sweden, and elsewhere in the West. The fall of Mosul is a serious blow for the Iraqi state, and the implications for Iraq's Christian community are devastating.
On death row in Sudan last week, Meriam Ibrahim gave birth to a girl, whom she named Maya. The 27-year-old prisoner of conscience is now a step closer to the gallows. On May 15, Meriam was sentenced to be hanged for apostasy from Islam, but the execution was ordered delayed until the then-8-month pregnant defendant delivered and weaned the baby.
On the morning of April 7, Dutch Jesuit priest Frans Van Der Lugt was most likely in meditation, as was his custom, when gunmen burst into his monastery in the old part of the Syrian town of Homs. They grabbed the 75-year-old clergyman, beat him, dragged him outside and shot him twice in the head. The assassins were probably jihadis who then controlled Homs.
A news article in last Friday's New York Times sets out to explore why the United States waited until November 2013 to designate Nigeria's Boko Haram as a "foreign terrorist organization."
On Wednesday, May 7, history is being made. On behalf of the suffering churches of Egypt, Iraq and Syria, a broad array of American Christians, with a degree of unity rarely seen since the Council of Nicaea in 325, have joined together in a "pledge of solidarity and call to action."
When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia next week, he will have an opportunity to follow through on his inspiring words at the Feb. 6. National Prayer Breakfast. There, he told thousands of Christian leaders that "the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose" is central to "human dignity," and so "promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy."
The religious persecution in Syria deepened this week, as evidenced by a written ultimatum purportedly distributed by the rebel jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to Christians in the northern provincial capital of Raqqa. Rejecting conversion to Islam or death, some 20 Christian leaders of that city held firm in their faith and submitted to the Islamists' demands to live by as dhimmis.
During this holy season, Christians turn their thoughts to that first Christmas and to the early Christians. This year, we should prayerfully reflect on the fact that those church communities founded by Thomas, Mark, Paul, Andrew, and the other disciples of Jesus, communities that have remained faithful for 2,000 years, are now suffering mightily for their faith.
A group of 13 Greek Orthodox nuns who were abducted by a jihadist militia that raided their town in Syria on December 1 were seen attesting to their well being in a video aired on Al Jazeera Friday afternoon.