Orthodox Rabbis call on US government to save historic Middle East Christian communities
In a Wall Street Journal
editorial, two Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, have called on the United States government to step up and save the ancient Christian communities
of the Middle East, which are now threatened with extinction.
Islamist terror attacks like the ones in Paris
and San Bernardino, Calif., have underlined the need for more and better vetting
of refugees from the Middle East who seek safety in the U.S. But with tens of
thousands pushing at the gate, who should to get first preference?
In our view, as rabbis, any immediate admissions
should focus on providing a haven for the remnants of historic Christian
communities of the Middle East. Christians in Iraq and Syria have been suffering
longer than other groups, and are fleeing not just for safety but because they
have been targeted for extinction. In a region strewn with desperate people,
their situation is even more dire. Christians (and Yazidis, ethnic Kurds who
follow a pre-Islamic religion) have long been targeted by Muslim groups—not only
Islamic State, or ISIS—for ethnic cleansing. Churches have been burned, priests
In the worst cases, Christians have been
tortured, raped and even crucified. Mosul, Iraq, which was home to a Christian
population of 35,000 a decade ago, is now empty of Christians after an ISIS
ultimatum that they either convert to Islam or be executed. In Syria, Gregorios
III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, said
in 2013 that “entire villages” have been “cleared of their Christian
Unlike some others, Middle East Christians have
nowhere else to go. As a result of turmoil not of their making and beyond their
control, these Christians are the region’s ultimate homeless. Should some sort
of peace ever return, the likelihood is that maps will be redrawn, carving up
the pie among larger ethnic groups. There will be no place for Christians among
hostile Muslim populations.
The animosity toward Christians is illustrated
by a horrific incident earlier this year off the Italian coast. In April,
Italian police investigating events on a boat that had departed from Libya said
12 Christian refugees who were attempting to cross the sea to Europe were thrown
overboard by Muslim migrant passengers, and drowned.
The U.S. can do much good for Christian
refugees. Their religious heritage establishes an important basis of commonality
in the many Christian communities in our country.
When Secretary of State John Kerry
announced in September that the U.S. will accept as many as 100,000 refugees by
2017, many of them Syrian, the State Department provided a list of more than 300
agencies in 190 locations that would assist on the local level. Of those
agencies, no less than 215 are Christian. It makes sense to play to the
strengths of those agencies.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems to disagree.
Tragically, present policy does not take into
account the uniquely precarious situation of displaced Christians. Instead of
receiving priority treatment, Christians are profoundly disadvantaged. For
instance, the State Department has accepted refugees primarily from lists
prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, which oversees
the large camps to which refugees have flocked, and where they are registered.
Yet endangered Christians do not dare enter those camps.
George Carey, the former Archbishop of
Canterbury, wrote in the Telegraph in Britain in September that a similar
protocol in the U.K. “inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian
communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic
State. Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been
attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them.”
But the world is too busy focusing on the 'Palestinians,' who themselves have driven Christians out of towns like Bethlehem
. Where are the Christian demonstrators on behalf of their brethren in the Middle East? Darned if I know.
Labels: Bethlehem, Christian Copts, Christian flight, Christians, Christians in Israel, Christians in Muslim countries, Islamic Christian hatred, Palestinian Christians