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Exterminating Xtians in the Middle East

BN-JY161_edp082_M_20150820135323IIraqi Christian refugees at an outdoor prayer service in Fuheis near Amman, Jordan, Aug. 8. Photo: Raad Adayleh/Associated Press

Islamic State marks the houses of Christians with the Arabic letter ‘N’ for Nazarene.

Recently I saw a riveting new play, “My Report to the World: The Story of Jan Karski.” In 1943 Karski, a member of the Polish Catholic underground, was the first eyewitness to the Warsaw ghetto and a Nazi concentration camp to reach the U.S. He sought to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter that Judaism was being systematically wiped out by the Nazis. Frankfurter told Karski he couldn’t believe it because the horror was unfathomable.

A similar story is playing out again, as Christians are being wiped out in the Middle East. On his recent trip to Latin America, Pope Francis said, “Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus.” He continued: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place.”

Middle Eastern Christians are being exterminated by Islamic State, or ISIS, simply because they are Christians. As Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David, Christian homes are marked with the Arabic letter “N” for Nazarene. Iraqi Sister Diana Momeka testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in May that “ISIS’s plan is to evacuate the land of Christians and wipe the earth clean of any evidence that we ever existed.”

There is another grisly similarity: In the 1940s Jewish refugees were turned away by the U.S. and other countries. Karski recalled in a 1995 interview: “The Jews were abandoned by all governments.”

Today’s persecuted Christians also have nowhere to go. The Rev. Emanuel Youkhana, the head of Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, told the New York Times in July that the West comes up with visas for “a few hundred people. What about a few hundred thousand?”

The Catholic News Agency reported on Aug. 5 that “since October 2014, 906 Muslim refugees from Syria were granted U.S. visas, while only 28 of Syria’s estimated 700,000 displaced Christians were given the same. Even when accounting for population percentages (Christians account for 10% of the religious makeup of Syria), the numbers of visas granted seems widely disproportional.” In response, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said at a press conference this month that “our people are asking these questions: how come we apply for the American visa and are denied?”


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