Christians in the Middle East: What Trump Can Do

On January 6, I published an essay in Providence Magazine: “How the Trump Administration Can Support Christians in the Middle East.” After reciting the litany of foreign policy challenges that President Obama leaves behind, I describe the dire situation Christians are facing in the Middle East:

The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, and the Christian presence there stretches back two millennia. The Coptic and Syriac Churches in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq are the oldest Christian communities on earth. Indeed, Syriac Christians continue to speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Today, these ancient peoples face the very real threat of elimination from the lands that gave them birth and nurtured their faith. . . .

If Christianity is to survive in the Middle East—and it must survive—Christian communities must be restored to their homes and lands. Their churches and property must be rebuilt. They must be guaranteed physical security, economic opportunity, and political equality. But they live in a region where all of these are in short supply.

I then offer three recommendations for the Trump administration.

  • First, appoint a Special Adviser for International Religious Freedom to the National Security Council. This would elevate international religious freedom issues to the highest levels of the American foreign policy apparatus. And they belong there. As I note, “countries that respect freedom of conscience also tend to value human dignity, equality, and the rule of law.” The converse is also true. Indeed, religious persecution is often a bellwether for broader human rights abuses.
  • Second, urge Congress to pass the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act. This bill directs the State Department to financially support organizations conducting criminal investigations on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Iraq and Syria. It would also set the stage for U.S. aid to NGOs on the ground who are supporting beleaguered Christians.
  • Finally, demand that the UN include Christians in any international genocide declaration. There are indications the UN may recognize that ISIS has committed genocide, but not against Christians. This would mean that Christians, particularly in Iraq, will be passed over for international aid and reconstruction assistance. As documented in the “Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East” report I helped author, the ISIS genocide against Christians is undeniable. The incoming U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, must demand the UN acknowledge this.

Open Doors recently published its 2017 World Watch List on Christian persecution. Read about the “major trends” here.


Legislative resolutions on genocide

The U.S. House and legislative bodies in Colorado, Georgia, and South Dakota have passed resolutions recognizing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East. Similar resolutions are pending in the U.S. Senate and five other states.

In the persecution section, I’ve complied the recent legislative resolutions, in the United States and around the world, recognizing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East.genocide resolutions map

  • The U.S. House of Representatives and legislative bodies in three states — Colorado, Georgia, and South Dakota — have passed or adopted resolutions recognizing genocide.
  • Similar resolutions have been introduced but not yet passed in the U.S. Senate and the legislative bodies of five states (Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio).
  • Legislative bodies in four states — Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee — have introduced or passed resolution related to persecution (though not genocide) of religious minorities in the Middle East.
  • Four foreign legislative bodies — the Council of Europe, European Parliament, Iraqi Parliament, and UK House of Commons — have passed or adopted resolutions recognizing genocide.

My compilation links to the various bills at Open States, where you can read the text and subscribe to updates.

[Updated to include the map, courtesy of Jeff Hinson.]

“Genocide Up Close and Personal”

Nina Shea writes at Christianity Today:

As Christians in Iraq and Syria face what many (including the US State Department) call genocide, world leaders often struggle to summon the right words for the persecution. ….

For clearer insight into this purge of communities from their ancient homelands, we have journalist Mindy Belz to thank. They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East (Tyndale) contains reporting from her many trips to the region, during which she faced threats of being stoned, kidnapped, or murdered.

Read the rest of the article ⇒