Christians in the Middle East may become an endangered species.
Targeted for their faith by hostile Muslims, Christians have historically been a moderating force in these troubled lands. But the increase in violence may purge them through death and fleeing, making the region even more of a hotbed for radicalism.
The escalating attacks have shocked the world in their ferocity as Christians worship in their sacred places.
Last October 31, Islamist extremists invaded Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Baghdad and slaughtered 58 men, women, and children, and wounded 78 others. The first killed was a priest who, minutes before, had blessed a woman and her unborn child.
On New Year’s Day, a car bomb ripped a Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt, killing 23 and injuring about 75.
In 2004, five churches in Baghdad and Mosul were bombed in coordinated attacks. In 2009, seven churches were bombed in one day.
Recently an Egyptian court acquitted two of three men accused of murdering six Coptic Orthodox Christians and one Muslim guard on Coptic Christmas Eve in January 2010.
President Obama’s response to the horrifying Baghdad massacre was called “extremely politically correct and uncaring” by Nina Shea, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The White House’s statement avoided mentioning that the bloodbath occurred at a church and the victims were Christians.
The weak response from government leaders — in the Middle East and the U.S. — to provide security, seek justice, or condemn the terrorism troubles Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia). He wants to create a special envoy to specifically address the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East. This would raise international awareness and show that the U.S. takes this seriously.
Rep. Wolf told The Weekly Standard that, “This has not been an issue this administration has spoken out on. A special envoy transcends bureaus, and would force the issue within our own government and others. We need to develop a comprehensive policy which recognizes that these indigenous communities are not simply the victims of generalized violence, but are facing targeted violence which is forcing them to flee the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.”
He also wants the State Department to review its aid policy to the persecuted groups.
The State Department has designated over $25 million to help religious minorities in Iraq since 2008. But experts and Iraqi Christians question where the money went.
The targeted terrorism is a chilling warning for what may be in store in other parts of the world as radical Islamist beliefs are exported. Promoting respect for religious minorities, and allowing Christians to be salt and light in dark places, can plant seeds of justice and mercy, and it could temper the radicalism.