Since we reached the 21st century in some corner of the world people have been persecuted, forced to flee or murdered simply for trying to practice their Christian faith.
From North Korea to Iraq, from Cuba to Egypt, from India to Syria Christianity is under fire. However, until recently the world has turned a blind eye to what former Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has said is “one of the crimes against humanity of our time”.
I want to concentrate on the birthplace of Christianity, the Middle East, where Christianity is facing the very real threat of being wiped off the face of the earth.
This is a pressing matter when you consider that a report by the International Society of Human Rights found out that 80% of all religious discrimination is directed against Christians.
In the Middle East at the turn of the century Christianity made up about 26% of the Syrian population. This is now less than 10% and continues to dwindle. In July in Iraq 300,000 Christians were forced out of Mosul by the Islamic extremist group ISIL, most likely never to return. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Middle East is awash with the blood of Christians due to Islamic extremism.
In recent comments to the World Jewish Congress, Pope Francis said that Christians are facing the same savage attacks as Jews have faced. Christians have become the new Jews and just like the persecution of Jews was ignored until it was too late for many, we are repeating the same mistakes when we avert our eyes to the fact that Christians freedom of religion are being trampled like a herd of elephants tramples the ground it walks on.
Some of the tactics used by barbaric Islamist Groups like ISIL are similar to those used against Jews by the Nazis. Just as Jews were marked out for extermination by Nazis with a yellow star, Christian doors in Iraq are marked with the Arabic letter N to mark them out for oppression, fleeing or death. Just as Nazis wanted to wipe all traces of Judaism off the earth, ISIL wants to wipe Christianity off the map.
So when we now talk in Churchillian tones about fighting back against ISIL, who are trying to spread their Islamist values at the point of a sword, we have to be honest with ourselves and say as part of this we are involved in a war to protect Christianity. This might offend some militant secularists but it is the truth.
This is why it is time that the leaders of the West led by the USA and which the UK is a major part of need to highlight the oppression of Christians in the Middle East and condemn it publically and to fellow leaders. To ignore it any longer is an option we need to stop countenancing. It is absolutely shameful that the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Christians has led to little reaction from the world. It seems that in our PC view of the world as Christianity is a dominant force in the West it is wrong to speak out against the persecution it’s facing.
As part of this we need to stop appeasing Islamic extremism. A cornerstone of western foreign policy which Obama has been a cheerleader of is the appeasement of Islamism. We have mistakenly believed that so called moderate Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood can be talked to. This is a fallacy because the only difference between ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme’ Islamists is how they will get rid of people who disagree with their version of an Islamic caliphate enveloping the whole world; through the ballot box or terrorism.
Secondly it means confronting ISIL who in Iraq and Syria are driving out Christians at the point of a sword. That means funding the Kurdish Pershmaga who are the only Armed Forces who seems capable of protecting Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Thirdly, it means more airstrikes and finally it means boots on the ground.
As of yet the leadership this would involve from President Obama has not been there. Instead of saving Christians in Iraq, we abandoned them when all U.S. and other coalition forces left Iraq in 2007 and into the vacuum stepped ISIL who made it their business to make the Christians of Iraq history.
However, in recent days Barack Obama seems to have discovered a backbone that I didn’t think he possessed. He has spoken about using force to stop ISIL. If it is to mean anything these words need to be followed by actions. Then perhaps Christianity can be practiced freely again in the Middle East.
We often talk about defending religious freedom abroad, but we have failed to protect 18 Million Christians living in the Middle East whose only crime has been to practice their faith. If we confront violent Islamic extremism not only can we save millions of people, we can also promote economic growth in struggling democracies like Iraq through increasing stability.
It is shocking the lack of protest the strangulation of Christianity has evoked. My question to everyone is how many more atrocities have to occur before we actually do something? After the Holocaust we said never again. Unfortunately, as our bloody world shows we failed to learn the lessons.
Let’s not make the same mistake when it comes to allowing Christians to live in peace in the Middle East. It’s time to take action to stop the ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Middle East through speaking out against it more and to take military action to combat Islamic extremism.
He graduated from the University of Leeds in 2012 where he studied Politics and Parliamentary Studies. Since the age of 16 he has been an active member of the Conservative Party.
After leaving University he was the Campaigns and Public Affairs Officer for the Zionist Federation and now works as a Parliamentary Researcher for a Conservative MP. Stephen has a particular interest in foreign policy.