Terrorists’ rampage against Christians

They keep upping the outrage to provoke the West. Is the West sufficiently provoked?

How can we tell? What would it take for ‘the international community’ to do something forceful and consequential to engage this enemy of civilization and at least pause if not halt the violence that’s so extreme, it’s breathtaking in its savagery? Who will even call it what it is?

Iraq’s UN Ambassador, for one.Iraq’s U.N. ambassador alleged Tuesday that Islamic State militants were committing genocide, a day ahead of an emergency Security Council session.

The session comes in the wake of the extremist group’s claim that it massacred 21 Christian Egyptians in Libya.

Mohamed Ali Al-Hakim told Security Council members, “These terrorist groups have desecrated all human values. They have committed the most heinous criminal terrorist acts against the Iraqi people, whether Shi’ite, Sunni, Christians, Turkmen, Shabak or Yazidis. These are, in fact, crimes of genocide committed against humanity that must be held accountable before international justice.”

He spoke as reports surfaced that the charred remains of dozens of people had been found in the Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, which came under Islamic State control last week.

While civilized people were still trying to catch their breath and sensibilities after the mass and highly publicized beheadings of 21 Christians, news that “the charred remains of dozens of people had been found” in a strategically located Iraqi town emerged, though very few media outlets have reported on it so far. BBC has.

The VOA news story continues, giving voice to the outrage mounting over these atrocities.

Egypt’s foreign minister is in New York for the meeting after President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi asked the council on Tuesday to mandate international military intervention in Libya.

“What happened is a hateful crime against humanity, not only against Egyptians,” el-Sissi told France’s Europe 1 radio, a day after his forces retaliated against the killings by launching airstrikes against what Cairo said were Islamic State militants in eastern Libya.

“I address this message here to Europeans and the French in particular,” he said. “I said it to the French president four months ago when I met him: Watch out — what’s happening in Libya will transform the country into a breeding ground that will threaten the entire region, not just Egypt, but Egypt, the Mediterranean basin and Europe.”

Precisely the point the terrorists want to make clear. This story on the anguished, urgent outcry of Pope Francis over the horrific violence, is revealing.

Pope Francis said: “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a blood that cries out to the Lord.”

“It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Lutherans,” the Pope continued. “They are Christians. Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”

A video of the decapitation of the 21 Copts kidnapped in Libya at the beginning of January was posted online by jihadist websites Sunday. The footage shows black-clad militants leading their captives in orange jumpsuits along a beach before forcing them to kneel.

The title of the video is: “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.” One caption reads: “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”

The wording of the message was a clear intent to provoke outrage, instill terror, and show disdain. Note this:

Before the mass beheading, one of the militants stands with a knife in his hand and says: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”

Where have we recently heard reference to “crusaders”? Oh yes, the president. This appears to be a signal that he was heard abroad.

It was also deviously designed as a signal of another sort.

Images from the video show waves of the Mediterranean breaking on the beach, turning red from the blood of the victims.

The killings took place less than 500 miles from the southern tip of Italy, raising concerns that ISIS has established a direct affiliate within striking distance of Europe. One of the militants in the video speaks directly to their intention, saying the group now plans to “conquer Rome,” the Associated Press reported.

That has come up before verbally. Now they’ve added a visual, to further intimidate and cast fear. In Rome, Francis will show no fear, but he’s both emotional and determined in his remarks about this brutality against innocents.

In the face of the brutal slayings, Pope Francis urged all Christians to work even harder for unity among themselves.

“As we recall these brothers and sisters who were killed only because they confessed Christ,” he said, “I ask that we encourage one another to go forward with this ecumenism that is emboldening us, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians”.

The president will not acknowledge that, nor that Islamic terrorism is Islamic terrorism. He called the beheaded Christians ‘Egyptian civilians.’ But it’s important to call things what they are, and Pope Francis does.

Pope Francis on Monday castigated the Islamic State barbarians who beheaded 21 Coptic Christians purely for their religious beliefs — and he called the victims “martyrs” whose blood “is a testimony which cries out to be heard.”

“Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me,’?” the sickened pontiff said. “They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians.”

Here are their names. Pray for them, their families, their communities, and an end to the violence.

They’re killing Christians

What is the ‘international community’ doing about it?

When  this story broke over the weekend, the sense of dread already finding new depths lately fell deeper.

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at a historic church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 78 people in the deadliest-ever attack against the country’s Christian minority.

Full stop. It’s been bloody terrifying to live in even a very small and quiet Christian community in a number of places in the world for a while and that reality has been on the increase in God only knows how long now. But think about that statement…”the deadliest-ever attack against the country’s Christian minority.”

A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, raising new questions about the government’s push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.

And who is answering those questions? Or responding in any active, significant way? Because this is a dire emergency.

The attack on the All Saints Church, which wounded 141 people, occurred as worshippers were leaving after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn, said a top government administrator, Sahibzada Anees.

“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” said Nazir John, who was at the church in the city’s Kohati Gate district along with at least 400 other worshippers. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”

Survivors wailed and hugged one another in the wake of the blasts. The white walls of the church, which first opened in the late 1800s, were pockmarked with holes caused by ball bearings contained in the bombs to cause maximum damage. Blood stained the floor and the walls. Plates filled with rice were scattered on the ground.

This is horrific.

The 78 dead included 34 women and seven children, said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Another 37 children were among the 141 wounded, he said.

The number of casualties from the blasts was so high that the hospital ran short of caskets for the dead and beds for the wounded, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a former information minister of surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province who was on the scene.

“This is the deadliest attack against Christians in our country,” said Irfan Jamil, the bishop of the eastern city of Lahore.

Pope Francis led several thousand people in a prayer for the victims while on a visit to Sardinia. Those who carried out the attack, he said, “took the wrong choice, one of hatred and war.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “atrocious” attack in the strongest possible terms and expressed deep concern at “the repeated attacks of blind violence against religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Ban said “these acts of terror cannot be justified by any cause,” reiterated the U.N.’s solidarity with the government’s ongoing struggle against terrorism and extremism, and urged the government to continue effort to build tolerance and strengthen relations between diverse religious and ethnic communities, Nesirky said.

One of the wounded, John Tariq, who lost his father in the attack, demanded of those behind the bombing: “What have we done wrong to these people? Why are we being killed?”

People need more than answers, they need aid for the survivors, relief for the suffering, protection from further terror, a strong response to escalating hateful violence and a pro-active demonstration of intolerance for terrorism like this by people who have voices that will be heard among those who commit these acts. For crying out loud.

Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif evidently is not getting through in any meaningful way. This is horrible.

And then there’s Syria and the atrocities being committed there.

Rebels led by al-Qa’ida-linked fighters gained control of a Christian town north-east of the capital, Damascus…

Maaloula, strategically located in the mountains overlooking Damascus, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, hailed as a beacon of Christianity and one of the last places in the world where the ancient language of Aramaic [the language of Jesus Christ] is spoken. The Muslim population has grown in recent decades, and the two religions frequently wage a war of words over loudspeakers, Friday prayers from the town’s two new mosques competing for attention with hymns of nuns that reverberate through the valley.

Now, the town has fallen into a far more violent back-and-forth as government forces have battled to regain control from the al-Qa’ida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra rebels, who first overran government roadblocks and entered the town…

…the recent kidnappings of prominent Orthodox bishops, plus the Christian peace activist Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, have raised disturbing parallels to the height of sectarian violence in Iraq, and fears that Syria’s Christian minority may not survive the war.

And in Egypt

The last month and a half has seen perhaps the worst anti-Christian violence in Egypt in seven centuries, with dozens of churches torched. Yet the western media has mainly focused on army assaults on the Muslim Brotherhood, and no major political figure has said anything about the sectarian attacks.

Re-read that. This is “perhaps the worse anti-Christian violence in Egypt in seven centuries.” Yet look at the follow up sentence about the western media and the world’s major political figures.

Last week at the National Liberal Club there was a discussion asking why the American and British press have ignored or under-reported this persecution, and (in some people’s minds) given a distorted narrative of what is happening.

Yes. Really.

Judging by the accounts given by one of the other speakers, Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom, the American press is even more blind, and their government not much better…

The night ended with historian Tom Holland declaring sadly that we are now seeing the extinction of Christianity and other minority faiths in the Middle East. As he pointed out, it’s the culmination of the long process that began in the Balkans in the late 19th century, reached its horrific European climax in 1939-1945, and continued with the Greeks of Alexandria, the Mizrahi Jews and most recently the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians of Iraq. The Copts may have the numbers to hold on, Holland said, and the Jews of Israel, but can anyone else?

Pay attention, world. This demands an all-in effort to aid humanity and fundamental human rights. But the world is busy and distracted. That’s both understandable, and incomprehensible when this is happening.

The saddest audience question was from a young man who I’m guessing was Egyptian-British. He asked: ‘Where was world Christianity when this happened?’

Nowhere. Watching X-Factor. Debating intersectionality. Or just too frightened of controversy to raise Muslim-on-Christian violence.

That’s a very likely reality.

The most outspoken British religious leader has been Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and the debate brought to mind something Rabbi Sacks recently said about Middle Eastern Christians, comparing their fate with those of the Jews in Europe, and quoting Martin Luther King: ‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’

U.S. ignoring Mideast violence against Christians?

The administration has been, for a long time.

The outrage over humanitarian crises in Syria and Egypt is selective. And in Pakistan, Africa, and other parts of the world. Take a look at Persecution Report, an aggregator of current top news stories of atrocities committed against religious minorities in these areas, a stunning one page collection of headlines and links to the lives of so many innocent individuals terrorized for living their beliefs, and believing what they do in the first place. And last place, as so many are slaughtered for it.

I’ve had regular talks on radio with Nina Shea, Hudson Institute’s Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, and each one is more shocking than the last. She says the silence by politicians and the media is due to a misguided sense of multi-culturalism and an unwillingness to speak out about Islamist groups targeting Christians, and it’s overlooking one of the most massive human rights violations in the world today.

Secretary of State John Kerry has said nothing about the crisis of religious minorities in Syria, even in what was until last week the runup to a potential military strike, which is still possible. Shea points out the flaws in the ‘Damascus plan’ if the Assad regime were to collapse or be removed.

Another crucial point in the rebels’ strategic memorandum involves revenge killings. This is a major concern, as the Syrian conflict is at its core a civil war within Islam. The regime identifies with the minority Alawite sect that is allied with Hezbollah militias supported by Shiite theocratic Iran, while the rebels, largely Sunnis, are bolstered by al-Qaeda terrorists and other Sunni jihadist fighters and supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Sunni regimes. Christians, who account for 10 percent (or more, when Iraqi refugees are counted) of the population and who have not taken up arms in this conflict are viewed by the two sides as aligned with the regime. They are the most vulnerable, since they have no militias or army to protect them…

Protecting the Christians does not seem to figure into the strategic plan at all.

The stark truth is that

…few in Washington are even bothering to ask what impact American strikes will have on Syria’s sizeable but defenseless Christian minority.

The State Department even has an ‘Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom,’ who has said nothing about this crisis. Shea talks about it as a ‘double-helix’, with the press and politicians deciding which issues are reported and how they’re framed.

The story of Maalula got reported for a day, and virtually dropped after that. Others don’t even make the news, and there are so many other stories of churches being destroyed, Christians being tortured, beheaded and some having their throats slit if they don’t renounce their faith.

Congressman Frank Wolf called for a special envoy for religious minorities and has been trying for months to get support in Congress for his bill.

He said that Congress should pass legislation to create an envoy dedicated to advocacy on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East and south-central Asia.

“This will send an important message to both our own foreign policy establishment and to suffering communities in the Middle East and elsewhere that religious freedom is a priority — that America will be a voice for the voiceless,” he said.

Journalist Rod Dreher issued a throwdown to everyone who claims concern for human rights to religious freedom, pointing to the example of Sen. Rand Paul and quoting his outspoken statements about the consequences of Syrian intervention on vulnerable, unprotected minorities.

So here is the nightmare. If the U.S., France, and some miscellaneous allies strike at the regime, they could conceivably so weaken it that it would collapse. Out of the ruins would emerge a radically anti-Western regime, which would kill or expel several million Christians and Alawites. This would be a political, religious, and humanitarian catastrophe unparalleled since the Armenian genocide almost exactly a century ago.

Nightmare indeed. If you are a Christian, why don’t you care? And if you do care, have you spoken to your pastor, your friends, and most importantly, your Congressman and Senators, about it? Rand Paul gets it. Do you?

If so, contact elected representatives (easy to find at either senate.gov or house.gov) and urge them to support Cong. Wolf’s special envoy bill, to take action to protect religious minorities and the international right to religious freedom.

Robert P. George, the new chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom took action this week in the form of a letter to the president.

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), I respectfully urge you to speak out clearly and forcefully about the unprecedented sectarian attacks committed against Christians in Egypt that proliferated at a frenetic pace on August 14 and the immediate days thereafter. It also is vitally important that the Egyptian interim government understands from you that it must promptly and thoroughly investigate violent incidents, prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law, and provide greater protections for Christians and their places of worship…

After former president Mohamed Morsi assumed office in June 2012, there was a noticeable increase in vitriolic, sectarian rhetoric targeted at religious minorities, particularly Copts and other Christians, as well as Shi’a, Sufis, and Baha’is. Following President Morsi’s ouster from office on July 3, there was an increase in violent attacks, which accelerated even more dramatically after the August 14 dispersals. Again, incitement against Christians was tolerated or even encouraged by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and their belated attempts to condemn the violence and calm tensions have been inadequate. In addition, the military and interim government has failed to take adequate measures to protect the rights of those at risk.

USCIRF repeatedly has cautioned that religious minorities, particularly Copts, are among the most vulnerable to extremist and scapegoat attacks during the democratic transition. For years, USCIRF has faulted the Egyptian government for allowing sectarian violence to occur with impunity. Past large-scale attacks on Christians that resulted in the deaths of dozens and injuries to hundreds – such as in Maspero in October 2011, Imbaba in May 2011, and Alexandria in January 2011 – remain unpunished. In fact, the absence of prosecutions from past sectarian incidents targeting Copts has fostered a climate of impunity that encourages future attacks.

Mr. President, while USCIRF welcomed your August 15 statement condemning attacks on churches and calling for the rights of religious minorities to be respected, we urge you and your Administration to take additional action. In concert with the European Union and other allies, we hope you will press the interim Egyptian government to provide greater protections for Copts and other religious minorities and their places of worship and actively advocate for justice and accountability for the violence committed against them.

In its annual report last spring, the Commission recommended that your Administration designate Egypt as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in and tolerating severe, ongoing, and systematic violations of religious freedom. That recommendation reflects our deep concern about ongoing violations of religious freedom, and the Commission will continue to monitor closely actions by the interim government.

Coptic Christians in Egypt – numbering more than eight million people – constitute the largest religious minority community in the region. The United States must act to ensure this ancient religious community is secure both in the present and in the future.

And that doesn’t even get into the crisis in Syria. Or Iraq, Pakistan, Africa… But it’s something. And something that must be done.