WASHINGTON — Christianity is being "wiped out" of its region of birth, said Cato Institute foreign policy expert Doug Bandow Tuesday during a Family Research Council discussion on the increase in Christian persecution in the Middle East and Africa, and he offered reasons why the international community has done little to save those ancient Christian communities.
Bandow, who is also a senior fellow in international religious persecution at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy and a former special assistant to the late President Ronald Reagan, argued that as Christians continue to be martyred at the hands of radical Islamic State jihadis or continue to live in squalor as refugees in Kurdish Iraq, the United States and other nations need to be doing more to aid the affected Christians and other religious minorities.
Although the U.S.-led coalition has conducted a number of airstrikes against IS, the strikes have done little to defeat the terrorist group or prevent it from continuing to destroy the ancient Christian history that has survived in Iraq and Syria for over 2,000 years.
Although the U.S. has trained 60 vetted Syrian rebels, there's not been any fight put up by Western nations on the ground,
"Most countries don't have expeditionary militaries and would never consider sending them in a case like this," Bandow explained. "Few of them see much of a diplomatic option, so you kind of roll your eyes and don't know what to do."
As hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled their homes in the region, some European nations have taken in Christian refugees, but Bandow says the U.S. has been hesitant to accept Christian asylum seekers because of the perception of a national "migrant crisis."
"Part of it, I think, is a sense of frustration in not quite knowing what to do," Bandow told The Christian Post. "There are few countries in Europe that tend to take refugees in but there is this whole migrant crisis that we see in the U.S. and there is fear, so that is one hard thing."
Although the U.S. has expedited immigration processing for other groups of migrants coming from the Middle East, the U.S. Immigration Custom Enforcement has jailed 20 Chaldean Christians after they tried to cross the southern border. Although the Iraqi Christians have family members willing to sponsor them, they have been jailed for over four months as their immigration processing has been delayed.
Bandow told the audience that the U.S. should be more open to allowing Christian refugees seeking asylum in the U.S.
"We want to be careful that we don't bring over jihadists but the nice thing is taking over Christians makes the vetting process a lot easier," Bandow stated. "We should be open. There is controversy in the Middle East. They don't like the loss of Christians, they don't want them to disappear, but if people are dying I don't see how we can not accept them."
Another reason Bandow believes the West has largely not done much to help the displaced Christian communities in the Middle East is because "Christian roots" don't carry the same weight that they once did among Western Christians.
"Part of it, I suspect, is that to some degree, Christian roots don't mean much anymore. They call these Christian countries — that is a heritage that most people don't affirm these days," Bandow asserted. "So, everyone would agree that this is wrong but there is not a personal identification that draws them."
"I think American Christians tend to be focused on America," Bandow continued. "The U.S. is a big country, it's rich, it's powerful, but you don't really see the rest of the world so much. It's not that people [don't care], but it doesn't impact you in a way like other countries are impacted by America."
Even though many Western Christians aren't concerned about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, Bandow warns that Christianity is close to being cleansed from that part of the world "where it began."
"We are seeing mass murder, we are seeing killing, we are seeing an attempted eradication of Christianity from where it began. It is an extraordinary thing to think about. Christianity risks, in many ways, being wiped out in large sections of the Middle East. I think it is important to kind of emphasize why this is important for all Americans and all people of good will," Bandow said. "Obviously as Christians, we should care about our brothers and sisters around the world and if we want to believe in life and dignity and believe that every human being is made in the image of God, we have to be concerned about the religious liberty of others, not just Christians, but everyone else."
Although the rise of the Islamic State is the greatest threat to Christianity in the Middle East, the militant group is not the only threat to Christians in the region.
As Bandow stated that every Islamic country in the world has some degree of persecution against Christians and other religious minorities, the he added that there are only two countries in the Middle East where Christians can relatively live without fear of consequence for their religious beliefs — Israel and Lebanon.
With some of the biggest persecutors of religious minorities being U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and NATO member in Turkey, Bandow contended that there is a role American Christians can take in helping combat international religious freedom violations.
"I think that individuals and churches can do a lot as well to make their views known to our policy makers, to support groups that are active in the area to try and embarrass regimes that are potentially embarrassable, maybe the Turks for example," Bandow said. "And also, to pray. This is an extraordinary challenge out there and these are believers and people of faith."
"Even if they don't share our theology, we find that in this enlightened liberal age where we are turning to the worse forms of persecution in the Middle East and elsewhere, we should not remain silent," he added. "It's not just Christians but other believers. We need to work with people of good will to try and confront this."