Failure of U.S. to Prioritize Christians Under Genocide Results in Dire Circumstances

Posted: Feb 17, 2017 12:20 PM

Last year former Secretary of State John Kerry officially declared ISIS is waging a genocide against Christians and other religious minority groups in Iraq, Syria and North Africa. An official declaration under international law requires immediate action to protect vulnerable minorities as stated in the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment the Crime of Genocide, including the prioritization of high risk religious populations for aid. 

Unfortunately, far from enough has been done to stop the genocide and Christians in the region are at risk of extinction. The failure of the United States to recognize the need for Christian prioritization in the region is leading their ultimate elimination. 

Vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus, an organization that's been bringing attention to this issue for years and one that played a pivotal role in solidifying an official genocide declaration from the State Department, writes about the dire circumstances over at Morning Consult:

When I visited Erbil, Iraq, in December with a congressional delegation determined to find out why Christians had often been excluded from U.S. aid programs, Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud of Mosul told us that Americans generally care more about endangered frogs than about endangered Christian communities.

Christians have lived in the region for almost 2,000 years. Many still speak the language of Jesus. But although they, and other minority communities, are now seriously endangered, some Americans seem more worried that they might get priority than that they might disappear completely.

The Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh – and its antecedents – imposed a strict religious test and then targeted minority religious communities for elimination. At best, these communities fled, but lost everything in the process.

Those who are outraged that we might now prioritize them are forgetting America’s proud tradition of prioritizing genocide survivors, and the dark moments when we ignored them.

After horrifically refusing admission to Jewish refugees on the S.S. St. Louis in 1939, the United States later changed course and numerically prioritized displaced European Jews. They had suffered a uniquely horrible targeting – even if there were more German, French and Italian refugees, who were also displaced and suffering.

During and after World War I as well, the U.S. government worked with Near Eastern Relief to aid Armenian and other Christian communities targeted for genocide by the Ottoman Empire. The American people solidly supported the effort.

It is not un-American to prioritize those who have been targeted for genocide because of their faith. It has been seen as quintessentially American for a century.

And religious persecution has long been a key qualifier for refugee status under our immigration laws.

Many in the media have criticized any efforts to prioritize Middle East Christians over other majority religious groups as refugees for entry into the United States.

The Trump administration, which issued a travel ban on all refugees from Iraq, Syria and other countries in the region two weeks ago, is open to allowing exceptions to the ban for Christians fleeing genocide. 

"It's important to the president, it was during and throughout the campaign. It's something he addressed this morning and it's something he's committed to in terms of allowing Christian minorities in key countries to seek asylum in the United States,"  White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said last week. "He recognizes that in so many nations, these are the oppressed groups in accordance with how the U.N. defines refugees."