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Obama Cold to the Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

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Daniel Philpott - published on 05/19/15 - updated on 06/08/17

Where's the outrage and condemnation?

Several pieces have been posted recently on the unabated persecution of Christians and other religious minorities like Yazidis and Mandeans in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East — and of the relative indifference of the State Department and the Obama administration to it.  Last month, journalist Kirsten Powerswrote in USA Today that President Obama “just can’t seem to find any passion for the mass persecution of Middle Eastern Christians.”  Reporting on a joint press conference that Obama held with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, she writes:

As Renzi was questioned about the incident, Obama  
was mute on the killings. He failed to interject any sense of outrage or even tepid concern for the targeting of Christians for their faith. If a Christian mob on a ship bound for Italy threw 12 Muslims to their death for praying to Allah, does anyone think the president would have been so disinterested? When three North Carolina Muslims were gunned down by a  
virulent atheist, Obama rightly  
spoke out against the horrifying killings. But he just can’t seem to find any passion for the  
mass persecution of  
Middle Eastern Christians or the  
eradication of Christianity from  
its birthplace.

Religious persecution of Christians is  
rampant worldwide, as Pew has noted, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the Middle East and Northern Africa, where followers of Jesus are the targets of  
religious cleansing. Pope Francis has  
repeatedly decried the persecution and  
begged the world for help, but it has had little impact. Western leaders — including Obama — will be remembered for their near silence as this human rights tragedy unfolded. The president’s mumblings about the atrocities visited upon Christians (usually extracted after public outcry over his silence) are few and far between. And it will be hard to forget his  
lecturing of Christians at the National Prayer Breakfast about the centuries-old Crusades while  
Middle Eastern Christianswere at that moment  
being harassed, driven from their homes, tortured and murdered for their faith.

Writing in a similar vein is Faith J.H. McDonnell of the Philos Project.

Evidence suggests that within the administration not only is there no passion for persecuted Christians under threat of genocide from the Islamic State, there is no room for them, period. In fact, despite ISIS’ targeting of Iraqi Christians specifically because they are Christians, and, as such, stand in the way of a pure, Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East (and beyond), the U.S. State Department has made it clear that “there is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation.

As ISIS is now seizing the Iraqi city of Ramadi, let us hope that the Obama administration will acknowledge the particularly of ISIS’s victims.


Daniel Philpott
is Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and Director of The Center for Civil and Human Rights. This article was originally published on the blog Arc of the Universe and is reprinted here with permission.

Tags:
Christians in the Middle EastIslamist MilitantsPolitics
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