Where Can the Persecuted Christians in the Middle East Go?
The Trump administration has an opportunity to help this largely ignored and very threatened population
In recent years, radical Islamic terrorists have murdered and persecuted Christians and other religious minorities by the millions in the Middle East — an issue largely ignored by the mainstream media.
Today, fewer than 250,000 Christians live in Iraq, according to a March 2 report by Circa.com. In 2003, around 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq, where they had resided for thousands of years.
“ISIS has produced and posted a ‘hit list’ of Christians it intends to murder.”
“Christians have lived in the region for almost 2,000 years,” Andrew Walther, Knights of Columbus vice president of communications, wrote last month in an op-ed for Morning Consult. “The Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh — and its antecedents — imposed a strict religious test and then targeted minority religious communities for elimination. At best, these communities fled, but lost everything in the process.”
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, prepared a comprehensive report, which it submitted to former Secretary of State John Kerry in March 2016. It detailed the genocide against Christians in the Middle East. “ISIS’ activities are well known. Killings, rapes, torture, kidnappings, bombings and the destruction of religious property and monuments are, in some instances, a matter of public record,” said the report.
“Some argue that Christians should be excluded from a genocide declaration because ISIS supposedly allows Christians to pay jizya — a tax historically made available in Islam to Christians in Muslim lands,” the report noted.
“The pushback was this idea that somehow ISIS would allow Christians to pay a tax … as if the hundreds of thousands of people that fled ISIS could’ve just paid $40 a year and lived happily ever after,” Walther told Circa.
Religious persecution still takes place in Egypt. A report from Arab News said that hundreds of Christians fled the area after the killings last week.
"Over the past few weeks ISIS has produced and posted a 'hit list' of Christians it intends to murder," Micah Halpern wrote in The Jerusalem Post this week. "So far ISIS has murdered seven people; one was beheaded, another was burned alive."
"[R]eligious persecution has long been a key qualifier for refugee status under our immigration laws," Walther wrote in Morning Consult. He also noted that minority religious groups are often overlooked and targeted by extremists — and thus may receive no help when aid is sent to refugee camps.
In a controversial executive order issued in late January, President Donald Trump banned citizens from seven Muslim-dominated countries from temporarily entering the United States. That executive order pertains to the countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. A new executive order from the administration is expected in the coming days, and reportedly it will drop Iraq from this list.
"Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program," Trump said on Jan. 27.
Of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States in 2016, half of one percent were Christians, as CNS News and others have reported — yet Christians totaled an estimated 10 percent of the Syrian population in 2011.
Where do Christians and others under persecution in the Middle East flee threats such as those from ISIS?
"The ISIS bombing of St. Mark's cathedral in Cairo on Dec. 11 2016, the largest church in the Middle East, momentarily brought the suffering of Middle East Christians to the forefront of American consciousness," Philippe Nassif, executive director of In Defense of Christians, wrote last December in an op-ed in The Hill.
God's chosen group of people have fled persecution and slavery tracing back to Old Testament times.
"Let my people go," the Lord commanded Moses to tell the Egyptian Pharaoh; Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the land God promised them. This "Promised Land" includes parts of modern-day Israel and Syria, among other Middle Eastern regions. The question for Christians is how they will survive the persecution and threats they are under and where they will find refuge — and who will help them. The world is watching.