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Join the discussion: Why is the West not doing more for Middle-Eastern Christians?

Compiled by Bethan Owen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 5 2014 6:09 p.m. MDT

In this Saturday, July 19, 2014 photo, displaced Christians who fled the violence in Mosul, pray at Mar Aframa church in the town of Qaraqoush on the outskirts of Mosul. Iraq was home to an estimated 1 million Christians before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Since then, militants have frequently targeted Christians across the country, bombing their churches and killing clergymen. Under such pressures, many Christians have left the country. Church officials now put the community at around 450,000.

Uncredited, Associated Press

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The Christian population in much of the Middle East “is becoming a shadow of its former self,” due to atrocities and forced expulsions, according to the International Religious Freedom Report. As persecutions of Christians persist in the Middle East, many are wondering why America, as a predominantly Christian nation, isn’t doing more to help.

The militant extremist group ISIS has issued an ultimatum to Christians in Iraq: "Convert to Islam, leave, or die," according to The Week. In the Syrian city of Homs, wrote the International Religious Freedom Report, the Christian population has dropped from 160,000 to about 1,000. In a January study from the Pew Research Center, Christians were persecuted or harassed in more countries than any other major religion.

While persecution of any religion is wrong and should be stopped, wrote Jay Michaelson of the Daily Beast, it is interesting to note the lack of American response to this particular crisis because so many Americans are Christians themselves.

“Where is the outrage?” he asked. Michaelson listed a few possible reasons, including simple inaccessibility. “It’s hard to find a good intervention in Syria or Iraq — let alone China. Most of the places that are bad for Christians are bad places for everybody,” he wrote.

Michaelson believes that this issue should teach American Christians, specifically conservatives, what it really means to be discriminated against for being a Christian.

“The oppression of Christians abroad could be a much-needed reality check for those complaining about the War on Christmas,” he wrote. “It could remind them of what religious liberty is: not the freedom to discriminate, but freedom from discrimination, violence, and worse.”

But American Christians haven’t been silent on the issue, wrote Jonathan Merritt of The Week, and he cited several strong statements from conservative evangelicals speaking out against Obama for his inaction. However, the issue is not only the president’s responsibility, according to Merritt.

“The Obama administration's pullout from Iraq has doubtlessly contributed to this crisis,” he wrote. “But these evangelical pundits fail to recognize that Christians in Iraq have faced extreme persecution since well before Obama took office. And though admitting it may taste bitter, evangelicals themselves must share the blame for the persecution of their brothers and sisters.”

Merritt went on to write that the anti-Christian state of the Middle East now is the result of many factors, including the initial widespread evangelical support for the war in Iraq.

“All of these (varying political) actions — yes, all of them — have transformed Iraq into an incubator for anti-Christian Islamic extremism,” he said. “Many American evangelical leaders — even those who now want to shift all blame to their political opponent — supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq, actions that contributed to the mass persecution of our brothers and sisters. And these leaders should be pleading for forgiveness, not pointing fingers.”

The U.S. is not the only country that should be re-evaluating its motives, according to Italian newspaper editor Ernesto Galli della Loggia. His article was translated into English and posted on the blog Rorate Caeli. In addition to other factors, he wrote, “Europe is afraid.”

“It fears Arab Islam,” he continued, “Its power of economic blackmail linked not only to oil anymore, but now also to an extraordinary financial liquidity. At the same time, and above all, it fears the ruthless terrorism, the so many guerrillas that claim to be inspired by Islam.”

Europe fears antagonizing Islam, he wrote, but it also has developed an apathy towards Christianity that Loggia compares to anti-semitism.

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