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Activists: West is ignoring genocide of Middle East religious minorities

Religious freedom advocate Katrina Lantos Swett, right, leads a panel for the opening of the In Defense of Christians national convention on Sept. 7, 2016, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) Nearly six months after Secretary of State John Kerry declared the murder of Christians in the Middle East a “genocide,” Westerners are doing little to stop the killings, said activists gathered for a convention on the victims’ plight.

Religious freedom advocate Katrina Lantos Swett called the crisis “perhaps the great moral challenge of our time right now,” at a news conference Wednesday (Sept. 7) opening the national convention for In Defense of Christians, an advocacy group.

“I am baffled and heartbroken, as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, at how it is possible for the West to seem so, so blind, willfully blind, or even worse, aware but relatively disinterested in what is unfolding in our time, on our watch, in our purview of being able to act,” said Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., plans to introduce legislation to support restoration of Coptic Christian churches destroyed by Egyptian looters in religious violence in 2013 during an In Defense of Christians press conference in Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., plans to introduce legislation to support restoration of Coptic Christian churches destroyed by Egyptian looters in religious violence in 2013. Trott discussed the legislation during an In Defense of Christians news conference in Washington on Sept. 7, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Activists are urging Congress to take decisive steps to protect the lives and culture of groups such as Assyrian and Coptic Christians, and non-Christians such as the Yazidis.


RELATED: Knights of Columbus report: ISIS committing Christian ‘genocide’


Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., announced plans during the news conference to introduce legislation to support restoration of Coptic Christian churches destroyed by Egyptian looters in religious violence in 2013.

Andrew Doran, co-founder of In Defense of Christians, speaks during a press conference to open the group’s national convention in Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Andrew Doran, co-founder of In Defense of Christians, speaks during a news conference to open the group’s national convention in Washington on Sept. 7, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Andrew Doran, co-founder of In Defense of Christians, said his group and other advocates will be working together to seek congressional action on ending the conflict in Syria, which he said is breeding terrorism in that region and beyond it.

“It’s not coming, it’s here — it’s in our churches, it’s in our nightclubs and it’s in our public spaces and it will get much worse before it gets better,” he said. “If we move swiftly to end the conflict in Syria we can save lives there now and save American lives and other lives elsewhere in the decades to come.”

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  • Because of oil and to preserve our alliances there we have always turned a blind eye to the Middle East. We align ourselves with Saudia Arabia, Egypt and Turkey for our own ends. Genocide is collateral damage which we might condemn but do nothing substansive.

  • It doesn’t really matter who the victims are religiously speaking, in such a context I choose not to categorize people. We are slaughtering one another around the globe on a host of pretexts. I see little hope of it declining. The solution does not lie in “religion” as such, nor I think, in rationalism. But any effort at any time to ameliorate such conditions and acts as we are able should be pursued. In that event I have more confidence in humanitarian agencies than in government.

  • Perhaps rather than pouring money into private estates and personal jets, mega churches and their pastors could fund private security forces where necessary. Joel Osteen? Creflo Dollar? James Dobson/Focus? Pat Robertson/700? How about the Robertson’s Duck Dynasty? Are the Kochs Christians?

    Seems like there are lots of rich (Christians?). They could protect the vulnerable Middle Eastern Christians very quickly, rather than relying on the government. Aren’t rich, conservative Christians the bootstraps people who decry government support? So get over there and keep your sisters and brothers in Christ safe from unnecessary martyrdom! Go!

  • I’m not real confident about the motivations and capabilities of private security forces. Since you have cited certain “evangelists” more than once, allow me to offer my conservative perspective on some of those ministers. While I do not view Mr. Osteen particularly as a heretic vis’ a’ vis his theology, I am however appalled by his unbiblical stance on the question of prosperity and wealth in what amounts to an emphasis on individual Christian aggrandizement. Creflo Dollar is much of the same stamp, with the addendum that many reputable scholars consider his teachings to be highly questionable in terms of sound biblical exegesis. As to Dobson, I consider him sound and cannot speak to his personal wealth. He is not a minister as such, but I believe Focus accomplishes many good works. Pat Robertson is another matter, I don’t doubt his sincerity, but I have looked askance in the past at his fundraising efforts, and more so at his penchant for predictive prophecy which tends to fall flat, and is often unnecessarily inflammatory. But I do think, again, that Operation Blessing has produced some good works. I imagine the Robertson’s are more focused, to the degree that they are, on domestic good works as well, though I kind of wish they would go away. I am in accord with their views generally, but I don’t get their celebrity at all. As in many things media wise in America, I tend to blame the audience. I have tended to avoid learning anything about the Kochs’, not my cup of tea. I think your argument, as far as it goes, might equally apply to wealthy Christians on the Left, of which there surely are some, but I don’t see this as a matter of money, nor are Christians the only religious subset to face the persecution narrated in the reporting. If wealthy or poor Christians are moved to provide support, I have greater confidence in the humane agencies on the ground who have a history of negotiating with oppressive forces than for profit security firms. Bear in mind, and I’m not being smug sitting safely here in the U.S., martyrs for Christ will receive a crown of glory, and be delivered from the pains of this present world. I am sometimes wistful, actually hoping for the growing persecution of the Church in this nation to see if I will be able to stand the test in the Day of Tribulation.

  • I attended one of Dobson’s political rallies. He didn’t bill it as such, due to tax considerations. But it was blatantly political and he had vile things to say about the politicians who didn’t vote according to his wishes.

    In addition, Dobson’s campaign against LBTG folks was very nasty. At that time, 2004, there wasn’t a stereotype, distortion, or outright lie he missed. Dobson’s speech was the among the worst examples of hate speech I’ve heard.

    My feelings about him, tending to disagreement, changed to powerful dislike after that. He was extremely unChristian and should be ashamed of himself.

  • That is an extremely interesting observation, though you and I don’t view events typically through the same lens, I recognize the validity of your perspective. In my religious studies I have noted a tendency of some influential religious philosophers to become acerbic as they age. For example, both Mohammed and Luther were highly sympathetic to the Jews until they discovered over time that the Jews were unpersuaded by their theological/philosophical arguments, at which point they became both hateful and irrational in their declarations. While I am adamant in my contention that active homosexuality is not compatible with the Gospel, my practice is to always affirm the innate human dignity of all human beings and God’s love for them. The Dobson that you observed may represent an example of the phenomena I’ve described.

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