Virtual Voices

The persecution of Christians in the 'Muslim world'

Religion

The New York Times this week ran a front-page article on Christian persecution in Iraq, noting, "A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country's security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them."

The Times goes on to inform us that "more than half of Iraq's Christian community, estimated to number 800,000 to 1.4 million before the American-led invasion in 2003, have already left the country."

What is the Obama administration doing to put pressure on the al-Maliki government in Baghdad to stop these murders of Christians? We have heard endlessly of this administration's "outreach to the Muslim world."

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That term-"Muslim world"-may itself be part of the problem. By telling Shia and Sunni Muslims that the Middle East is their world, are we not saying that Middle Eastern Christians and Jews don't belong there?

The Christian community in Iraq has been there since the beginnings of the Church. Bible readers will recognize Nineveh Province, one of the regions in modern-day Iraq. Didn't some biblical character named Jonah have a rendezvous with destiny there? The Chaldean Assyrian Christians-note their Bible name-speak Aramaic, which is the language scholars tell us Jesus spoke. Yet these people, too, are being driven away.

The Wall Street Journal also has taken up the cause of Christian persecution and has done so eloquently:

"With the rise of radical Islam, this tradition of peaceful and productive coexistence has been displaced by a practice of religious cleansing. It is estimated that of the 100,000 Christians who once lived in Mosul, Iraq, only some 5,000 are still there. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been brutalized. Assaults on churches increase around Easter or Christmas, as worshipers attempt to observe holy days."

Where is the U.S. State Department on all of this? Where is the White House press office?

By constantly bowing to the idea of a "Muslim world," the Obama administration undercuts its own professed desire for peace in the region. When was the last time we heard anyone speak of "Christendom"?

President Obama recently compared his Republican opponents on Capitol Hill to "hostage takers." Are they Shia? Sunni? Could he list the number of non-Muslim hostage takers the world has witnessed in the past 40 years?

Both Iraq and Afghanistan have constitutions that the United States helped them craft following the U.S.-led invasions of their countries. Our own State Department advisers insisted on including in these post-Saddam and post-Taliban constitutions something strange called "repugnancy clauses."

These repugnancy clauses say, in sum, that notwithstanding anything else in this constitution, nothing may be done by this government that is repugnant to Islam. Who gets to determine what is repugnant to Islam? Who has historically determined repugnancy? Is it not the mullahs? And which mullahs might that be? Why, the mullahs with more guns, of course.

By insisting on these repugnancy clauses, our own State Department advisers have constitutionalized ethnic and religious strife. Not only are Christians and Jews in mortal peril in the affected countries, we see that off-brand Muslims are in danger, too. If you are a Shia in a Sunni-dominant country, like Saudi Arabia, you can expect to be jailed.

If you are a Sunni in Iran, you're likewise in trouble. And, of course, if you're a Sufi in any Muslim-dominant country, heaven help you.

Our nameless State Department types-those who insisted on and got these repugnancy clauses-also ignored our own American contribution to religious liberty. Thomas Jefferson was our first secretary of State. His closest friend, James Madison, served as secretary of State for eight years in President Jefferson's Cabinet. They knew something about diplomacy, as well as being among America's greatest advocates for religious freedom.

When they collaborated on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, they laid the foundation for civil liberty in a constitutional republic. It is axiomatic that if you murder your neighbor because he worships differently than you do, you will never enjoy democracy. Why don't our State Department functionaries understand this?

It does not matter how many millions of purple-fingered voters approved these fatally flawed constitutions. If those same voters go to the polls and elect politicians who refuse to protect the very lives of Christians in their midst, it is all for naught.

"I expect that a month from now not a single Christian will be left in Mosul," the Times reports Nelson P. Khoshaba as saying. Khoshaba is an engineer who worked in the Iraqi city's waterworks. Is he not just the kind of educated citizen that Iraq needs in its post-Saddam era? But if Khoshaba and his family must flee their historic homeland, what does this say about our enterprise in Iraq?

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