Middle East Christians Deserve Refuge

[The Western media seems to devote only minimal coverage to persecuted Christians and Jews in the Muslim world. I am most grateful for the following op-ed, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal, as well as in a Simon Wiesenthal Center e-Newsletter, focusing on this reality, suggesting that the situation is of “genocidal” proportions, and even the UN refugee camps may very well be unsafe for Christian refugees—hence the urgency to prioritize the protection and reception of Middle East Christian refugees in “safe” Western countries. To advocate for this cause, I have decided to re-blog the entire piece here. For yours truly, a pressing question arises for us here in Canada: Will our federal government also intervene to accept as many Middle Eastern Christian refugees as possible, in light of the fanatical, Islamist militants who seem determined to commit genocide against them? –Dim Lamp]

Mideast Christians Deserve U.S. Refuge*
Hunted by ISIS, afraid to enter refugee camps, they are undercounted and desperate for help.

By ABRAHAM COOPER By YITZCHOK ADLERSTEIN

Donald Trump’s bizarre proposal to bar all Muslim immigrants from the U.S. has overshadowed a more legitimate concern regarding religion and immigration: Middle East Christians who are desperate to escape the genocidal campaign against them by Islamic State.

Islamist terror attacks like the ones in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have underlined the need for more and better vetting of refugees from the Middle East who seek safety in the U.S. But with tens of thousands pushing at the gate, who should to get first preference?

In our view, as rabbis, any immediate admissions should focus on providing a haven for the remnants of historic Christian communities of the Middle East. Christians in Iraq and Syria have been suffering longer than other groups, and are fleeing not just for safety but because they have been targeted for extinction. In a region strewn with desperate people, their situation is even more dire. Christians (and Yazidis, ethnic Kurds who follow a pre-Islamic religion) have long been targeted by Muslim groups—not only Islamic State, or ISIS—for ethnic cleansing. Churches have been burned, priests arrested.

In the worst cases, Christians have been tortured, raped and even crucified. Mosul, Iraq, which was home to a Christian population of 35,000 a decade ago, is now empty of Christians after an ISIS ultimatum that they either convert to Islam or be executed. In Syria, Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, said in 2013 that “entire villages” have been “cleared of their Christian inhabitants.”

Unlike some others, Middle East Christians have nowhere else to go. As a result of turmoil not of their making and beyond their control, these Christians are the region’s ultimate homeless. Should some sort of peace ever return, the likelihood is that maps will be redrawn, carving up the pie among larger ethnic groups. There will be no place for Christians among hostile Muslim populations.

The animosity toward Christians is illustrated by a horrific incident earlier this year off the Italian coast. In April, Italian police investigating events on a boat that had departed from Libya said 12 Christian refugees who were attempting to cross the sea to Europe were thrown overboard by Muslim migrant passengers, and drowned.

The U.S. can do much good for Christian refugees. Their religious heritage establishes an important basis of commonality in the many Christian communities in our country.

When Secretary of State John Kerry announced in September that the U.S. will accept as many as 100,000 refugees by 2017, many of them Syrian, the State Department provided a list of more than 300 agencies in 190 locations that would assist on the local level. Of those agencies, no less than 215 are Christian. It makes sense to play to the strengths of those agencies.

Success in dealing with the first wave of immigrants will help build bipartisan support for other refugees from the Middle East to come to America.

Tragically, present policy does not take into account the uniquely precarious situation of displaced Christians. Instead of receiving priority treatment, Christians are profoundly disadvantaged. For instance, the State Department has accepted refugees primarily from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, which oversees the large camps to which refugees have flocked, and where they are registered. Yet endangered Christians do not dare enter those camps.

George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in the Telegraph in Britain in September that a similar protocol in the U.K. “inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State. Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them.”

U.S. missteps and missed opportunities in the region contributed to the crises that disproportionately affected Christians. America’s policy should immediately be amended to include these refugees at the top of the list. Opening America’s doors to them first is the right thing to do.

Rabbi Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Rabbi Adlerstein is the center’s director of interfaith affairs.

*From UK-based think-tank POLITEIA:
Wednesday 23rd December: This week over 60 MPs and peers wrote to the Prime Minister to ask that the crimes against minorities in Syria should be treated as genocide. That letter echoed another warning by Prince Charles that Christian communities in the Middle East were ‘being targeted like never before by fanatical Islamist militants intent on dividing communities that had lived together for centuries’.

In America, two Rabbis from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human Rights NGO have now added their voice to the policy discussion, calling in the Wall Street Journal for the State Department to admit these refugees to the US. … In a discussion based on this article, Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein explain why Middle East Christians present a special case for humanitarian concern.

 

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What is happening in Iran?

The following collection of pictures and commentary presents a rather disturbing perspective on what is happening in Iran. By and large, the media coverage on Iran in the Western world seems rather scant at best, and tends to downplay the rather than profile the human rights violations in that nation. I therefore appreciate the following presentation from the folks at http://www.honestreporting.com/.

The depraved United Nations

On September 20, the vast majority of the 192 member countries of the United Nations will probably “recognize” a Palestinian state.

The “recognition” will not be accompanied with caveats about dismantling PA terrorist organizations such as Al- Aksa Martyrs Brigades or ending the incitement to hatred and murder of Jews and Israelis that pervades all levels of Palestinian society. There will be no requirements for demilitarization. Nor will negotiations by the PA to unite with the genocidal Hamas be curtailed. The Palestinians will not be obliged to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will continue demanding the Arab right of return to it.

Renewal of negotiations with Israel are unlikely because the Palestinians realize that their goals can be more effectively achieved by leveraging international pressure on us to make further unilateral concessions – and dismantle us in stages.

This event will be followed by Durban III, a UN endorsed hate fest designed to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. The principal participant will be Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who recently predicted that the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood would represent the first step toward the inevitable elimination of the Jewish state. Like the preceding meetings in 2001 and 2009, this purportedly “anti-racist conference” will overwhelmingly concentrate on spewing venom against Israel.

The founders of the United Nations, who after the defeat of Nazism endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could never have visualized that the organization they created would become controlled by dictatorships and tyrannies and transformed into a platform for promoting genocide.

You can read the whole article here.

New Year thoughts in different directions

New Year thoughts in different directions

The arrival of another new year brings with it many open doors of opportunity. The old adage, when you’re so far down, there’s only one way to go, up, may well describe the present state of the world.

 

On the international scene, Christmas and New Year’s headlines focussed on the conflict in the Middle East, the breaking of the six month truce between Israel and Hamas, and the bombings of Hamas military targets by Israeli planes. The psalmist’s age old lament-question, “How long, O LORD,” is as applicable as ever. The issues, of course, are as old as the days of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael. Questions, criticisms, and advice are legion—however, solutions are still as enigmatic as ever. Fundamentalist and evangelical preachers with all of their eschatological scenarios are a dime a dozen. A Bruce Cockburn line comes to mind: “Everyone wants justice done on somebody else.” Or maybe a little more hope in a Leonard Cohen line: “Ring the bells that still can ring forget your perfect offering there’s a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.” Maybe we all need to pray for more cracks and ring more bells. What is the international community—including the so-called moderate Muslim nations—doing about the escalating anti-Semitic rhetoric and the Holocaust denial conference of Iran’s Prime Minister? Remember, the Nazi movement also started with rhetoric and escalated into anti-Semitic political policies, which in turn, resulted in the Holocaust. Why is the international community criticising Israel to no end, yet failing to act to declare suicide bombings a crime against humanity? Israel has a right to exist in peace with her neighbours. Do her neighbours accept or reject this right? My hope and prayer for 2009 is that the peace movement among Israelis and Palestinians shall flourish, and the press focus more on what they are doing to make a difference in everyday life for both peoples.

 

On the national scene, we had a bit of a political crisis, with the threat of a coalition between the NDPs and Liberals, and the BQ promising their support. Most Canadians may not have voted Prime Minister Harper into parliament—since the voter turnout was rather pathetic!—yet, I think the majority of Canadians would consider such a coalition with a separatist party holding the balance of power rather dangerous. I empathize with the Governor General; she had a difficult decision to make; however I think she made the best one, considering the alternatives. Our M.P.s in Ottawa from all parties need to stop playing destructive political partisan games and consider the overall well-being of the nation—that’s what Canadians gave them a mandate to do, to govern responsibly in a minority situation by working together regardless of their political ideologies. The growing—statistics may not support this—violence, or at the least media coverage, is a concern for every Canadian. What are the circumstances and other factors that draw people into gangs and drugs? Do we need to be more proactive? How can we as a society meet the needs of people in order that they would not turn to gangs, violence and drugs? We all need to struggle with questions like this and work together for a more peaceful society. Rather than signs of despair, these are doors of opportunities, for where there is life there is hope and vice versa. Happy New Year and God bless us one and all!