On Monday [Dec. 13] the New York Times ran a lead paragraph to a story that's as chilling as any I've read in recent memory. Here it is:
"A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq and abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country's security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them."
There, in one paragraph, the Times sums up the grim situation facing Christians in Baghdad and throughout Iraq. They are subject to a campaign of violence — not some indiscriminate acts by a few Islamist radicals. They are being harassed and killed right under the very noses of the Iraqi security forces and the government, and it is not clear at all that the government wants to stop it.
I have talked about this time and time again on BreakPoint, and I have criticized the American media for ignoring it. Well, my hat's off to the New York Times for putting the story on the front page.
The issue of Christians in Iraq really hits home, particularly the week before Christmas. These "Assyrian" or "Chaldean" Christians form one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back to biblical times — long before the rise of Islam.
And, sad to say, the action or inaction of the U.S. government has played a major role in the situation. No doubt the U.S. government never intended to place Christians in the crosshairs of Islamist radicals, but the invasion of Iraq prepared the ground for what Nina Shea at Freedom House has called a "ruthless cleansing campaign by Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish militants."
What's scandalous is that the U.S. has done precious little about it. I have no doubt that if the Administration were to pressure the Iraqi government — including threatening to cut off aid — the persecution would either stop, or at least the Iraqi government would start to make honest efforts to end the bloodshed. And you and I need to tell the administration and Congress that the U.S. government must not tolerate such blatant persecution.
Maybe the administration's silence on the issue has something to do with its effort to improve relations with the Muslim world — an effort I applaud. But we can't remain silent for fear of offending Muslims. Even if, as a reputable pollster told me, up to 18 percent of Muslims hold radical views and support religious violence, that means 80 percent or more do not. It is those peace-loving Muslims we should enlist in the fight against the radical Islamist worldview and the barbarians who embrace religious bloodshed.
After all, we believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence. "All men" -- that's including Muslims, as well as Iraqi Christians -- "are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." Religious freedom is one of those rights. So when our men and women go into combat around the world, they are fighting not just for the rights of Christians, but for Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists — that is, for the rights of all people.
But by doing nothing as our so-called allies in the Iraqi government ignore the deadly persecution of Christians, the U.S. not only betrays its principles, but it has blood on its hands.
So, kudos to the New York Times for giving the plight of Iraqi Christians top billing. It's time for the administration to do the same.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: December 20, 2010