This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.
The former President of Lebanon, Amine Gemayel, is a Maronite Christian. He recently warned of “an exodus approaching biblical proportions.” Gemayel told a gathering in Zurich of Christian Solidarity International (CSI) and other human rights activists that the current wave of church burnings, murders, and riots against Christians in the Mideast is the work of radical Islamists. The former Lebanese leader’s own brother had been assassinated in Beirut by these same jihadists.
President Gemayel’s warnings echo those issued two years ago by Vienna’s Catholic prelate. Christoph Cardinal Schönborn in 2012 told a religious freedom roundtable in Washington that Egypt and Syria “must not become Iraq.” He was referring to the ethnic cleansing that had led the post-Saddam government of Iraq to turn a blind eye to the killing or the driving out of more than half of that war-torn Arab country’s pre-invasion Christian population of 1.6 million.
Cardinal Schönborn listed many famous cities—Antioch, Smyrna, Aleppo, Damascus, Hippo, Alexandria—among the scores of Dioceses that had fallen under the Sword of Mohammed in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries. These historic Christian communities were lost or suppressed by Muslim conquests.
Not since those violent days have we seen such tribulation for the regions Christians, the Cardinal said. That was in 2012. Last Christmas, as if to answer the Cardinal’s message, a Chaldean Christian church was bombed in Baghdad.
As President Gemayel now tells us, the situation has grown even worse. For this, the Obama administration bears a heavy responsibility. President Obama spoke movingly of Christian persecution in the world at February's congressional Prayer Breakfast. But he failed to note that these Christians were not persecuting themselves, or each other. In virtually every case, they are being targeted by radical Islamists, jihadists.
Mr. Obama’s CIA Chief, John Brennan, refuses even to identify the persecutors. He says we cannot call them jihadists because jihad is a legitimate tenet of the Muslim religion. We cannot call them radical Islamists, because that would be disrespectful to a major world religion.
When, as in Sudan in the 1990s, a church is bombed on Christmas Day by the government of Sudan, we are not supposed to notice that that government styles itself the National Islamic Front?
President Obama named Rashad Hussain as his personal envoy to the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The group meets regularly and issues communiqués. It seems never to have placed the issue of human rights or religious persecution on its agenda.
Why isn’t Mr. Obama’s envoy pressing the OIC on persecution of Christians? If the President of the United States cares about Christian persecution—as he eloquently stated here in Washington—then it should be a simple matter for him to instruct his own ambassador to raise the issue with the fifty-seven member nations where most of this murderous persecution is happening.
Or, is this public hand-wringing over murdered Christians merely a polite posture? This administration gave billions to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi—even after Morsi announced his top priority when he visited the White House would be to press for the release of the blind Egyptian Sheik—Omar Abdel Rahman. This Muslim cleric guided the assassins of Egypt’s pro-Western President Anwar Sadat and conspired with the terrorists who staged the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey was the federal judge who sentenced the Blind Sheik to a long prison term. Mukasey has warned against even considering release of Mohamed Morsi’s friend.
Happily, Morsi was ousted by Egypt’s military after a year of misrule and trampling the constitution he had a hand in drafting. Massive popular demonstrations throughout Egypt prompted the army to move against Morsi. Egypt’s Coptic Christians—who had been brutally suppressed by the Morsi regime—publicly welcomed the military’s action.
Not the Obama administration. They cut off all aid to Egypt’s military—pushing them straight into Russia’s welcoming arms.
Wherever we look in the Mideast, the standing of the United States is lower now than it was when Mr. Obama took office. Whether we look to Israel, our only reliable ally in the region, or to Turkey or Egypt, once aligned with the U.S., our relations everywhere are in tatters. And the Christians are suffering most of all.
And the Christians are suffering more than anyone. The Arab Spring has been followed by a bitter Islamist Winter.