In the Middle East, the Islamic State is crucifying Christians and demolishing ancient churches. Why is this being met with silence from the halls of US Congress to Sunday sermons?
Last August, President Barack Obama signed off on legislation creating a special envoy charged with aiding the ancient Christian communities and other beleaguered religious minorities being targeted by the Islamic State.
The bill was a modest one — the new position was given a budget of just $1 million — and the White House quietly announced the signing in a late-afternoon press release that lumped it in with an array of other low-profile legislation. Neither Obama nor any prominent lawmakers made any explicit public reference to the bill.
Seven months later, the position remains unfilled — a small but concrete example of Washington’s passivity in the face of an ongoing wave of atrocities against the Assyrian, Chaldean, and other Christian communities of Iraq and Syria.
The Islamic State has razed centuries-old churches and monasteries, beheaded and crucified Christians, and mounted a concerted campaign to drive Christians out of cities and towns they’ve lived in for thousands of years. The Iraqi city of Mosul had a Christian population of 35,000 when U.S. forces invaded the country in 2003; today, with the city in the hands of the Islamic State, the vast majority of them have fled.
Every holiday season, politicians in America take to the airwaves to rail against a so-called “war on Christmas” or “war on Easter,” pointing to things like major retailers wishing shoppers generic “happy holidays.” But on the subject of the Middle East, where an actual war on Christians is in full swing, those same voices are silent. A push to use American aircraft to shield the areas of Iraq where Christians have fled has gone nowhere. Legislation that would fast-track visa applications from Christians looking to leave for the United States never even came up for a vote. The White House, meanwhile, won’t say if or when it will fill the special envoy position.
About 14 million children – more than the populations of Washington State and Massachusetts combined – are living every day with extreme violence, the hardships of displacement, and the mental aggression of extremist ideology, according to UNICEF, the United Nations agency charged with promoting the welfare.
“As Syrian civil war enters fifth year, the situation of more than 5.6 million children remains desperate” according to UNICEF
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi children have been displaced, along with their families, and now live in camps in unfamiliar places – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt. For many, schooling is an opportunity of the past, leaving as the only options menial labor and, for growing numbers of girls, childhood marriage.
For many who do stay put, schooling now means an education in the ideology of the self-described Islamic State (IS), with lessons in intolerance of non-Muslims.
According to UNICEF, almost 2 million Syrian children live in areas where the humanitarian aid does not reach, and approximately 2.6 million children are no longer attending school.
For the youngest children, the crisis in Syria is all that they known; for adolescents, the violence and suffering have not only marked their past but they are shaping their future. […]
The UNICEF statements joins a long list of reports and cries of alarm from humanitarian officials and international children’s rights groups marking the fourth anniversary of the Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011.
That sense of deep failure by world powers and the international community has carried across many of the statements marking the Syrian anniversary.
With no end in sight to the fighting, the ranks of the 14 million children affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq will only grow, UNICEF says.