This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 4, 2016 by The Washington Times.
When is genocide not genocide?
Answer: when it’s committed against Christians. That’s the current de facto policy of the Obama administration, which is clearing the way to admit thousands more Syrian Muslim refugees to the United States while blocking Christians.
The disparity exists because Syria is a nation-state whose government is abusing its own people, a situation that qualifies the victims for persecution status under U.S. law. Meanwhile, the Islamic State (ISIS) has conquered large portions of Syria and Iraq. Although it is operating like a government, it’s not an officially recognized state.
Christians who are crucified, tortured, raped, enslaved and suffer wholesale destruction of their communities by the Islamic State apparently don’t qualify for asylum.
To rectify this horrific disparity, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California is sponsoring The Save Christians from Genocide Act (H.R. 4017).
Introduced on Nov. 5, the bill was assigned in early December to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. It calls for designating Christians and Yazidis as targets of genocide and would, therefore, give them heightened refugee status. It also says, “ISIS and its leaders should be charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.”
Following the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump ignited a national debate by calling for a halt to Muslim immigrants to the United States. He and others suggested that Christians, who share America’s founding faith and are being singled out and killed by jihadists, would be more suitable candidates for refugee status.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas noted that Christians represent “no meaningful risk of committing acts of terror.” Former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush also weighed in, saying the U.S. should concentrate on helping “the Christians [who] are being slaughtered.”
Defending his plan to bring 10,000 Syrian Muslim refugees to the United States next year, President Obama told reporters on Nov. 16 at the G-20 conference in Turkey that such comments were “shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have a religious test for our compassion.”
Well, here’s the problem. The Islamic State, along with Boko Haram and other Islamic jihadists, has already imposed a religious test whose aim is a Christian holocaust.
Unlike Muslim refugees who could enter many nearby Muslim nations, Christians have no place to go. Israel, the safest place for them, can take only a few. Lebanon, which still has a substantial Christian minority, is extremely volatile, with numerous terrorist incidents.
The Islamic State is not the only threat. In April, Muslims in a boat that left Libya for Italy with 105 refugees from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal found a dozen Christians from Nigeria and Ghana among them. Failing the religious test, the Christians were thrown overboard to their deaths, Italian police reported.
At a Dec. 4 Heritage Foundation panel on the Islamic State’s persecution of religious minorities, Patrick Kelly of the Knights of Columbus said, “We have evidence that Christians in the camps are being targeted, that ISIS and other militias are sending assassins into the camps, that there is sex slavery and kidnapping.”
A letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry by 30 religious leaders, scholars and experts on religious freedom on Dec. 4 urges the Obama administration to declare Christians genocide victims under the United Nations’ Genocide Convention.
The letter cites “ISIS assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; its sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; its practices of forcible conversions to Islam; its destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and its theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.”
An official U.S. genocide designation would put pressure on the U.N. to initiate international action to stop the slaughter that the Obama administration inexplicably has treated as no big deal unless the victims are Muslims.
The administration appears to be moving toward declaring the Yazidis as victims of the Islamic State’s genocide — but not Christians. The Yazidis practice a syncretistic mix of monotheistic paganism, with elements of Islam. Unlike the Yazidis, who must convert or die, Christians are one of the Peoples of the Book mentioned in the Koran, so they can pay a jizya (tax) and survive. But that’s not a real choice, and it depends on the volatile moods of their captors.
“Even if you pay, you’re not going to be able to practice your religion,” Professor Robert Destro of Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law told the Catholic News Agency. “You’re going to be forced to leave, and you will likely be killed.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged a Christian genocide designation, as has Pope Francis, who in July declared that the jihadists’ atrocities are part of a “third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing,” and that “a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”
From his lips to God’s ears. And more ears in Washington.