In 2014, ISIS exploded on the Middle East and spread their barbaric cruelty from Pakistan to Egypt and Libya. The Islamic terrorists decimated Iraq and Syria, particularly with the goal of trying to wipe Christendom off the map.
Mindy Belz, senior editor at World Magazine, who has visited and reported from Iraq frequently over the past two decades, said, “From the time of the U.S. invasion to now, you have seen a Christian church of over a million people that has been reduced to 100,000 people.”
During his campaign in 2016, President Trump repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for doing little to help persecuted Christians around the world. He pledged, “We are going to help them. They’ve been horribly treated. If you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, at least very, very tough, to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim, you could come in. But if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.”
Last year, Vice President Mike Pence re-pledged support to Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities forced out of their homelands in Iraq by ISIS.
That is why Christianity Today implored the White House’s help in last October’s article, “Iraqi Christians Waited Years for American Funds. Is Now Too Late?”
The good news is the Trump administration announced last October “a multimillion-dollar assistance plan to bring the total funding in 2018 for religious minorities in Iraq to nearly $300 million. The money will be used to rebuild communities, preserve heritage sites, secure left-behind explosives and empower survivors to seek justice.”
More good news came when USAID also announced a new collaboration with the Catholic group Knights of Columbus, which joined 36 local, 11 faith-based and 27 international partners to bring help in northern Iraq.
USAID administrator Mark Green explained that they would “work together to identify those in need with greater precision; mobilize private and public sector resources to help them; and collaborate on efforts to prevent, and respond to, genocide and persecution in Iraq and across the region.” Green added that the Knights of Columbus have given more than $20 million to the region since 2014, with plans to donate $5 million more over the next six months.
The other great news is what Fox News recently reported: “Almost five years after ISIS slaughtered its way onto the scene in Iraq and Syria – brandishing their own extreme and much-denounced version of Islam – some in the Middle East are coming out to announce their conversion to Christianity, seeking another Abrahamic faith to drown out the nightmares of life under the terrorist tirade.”
Jamial, a 35-year-old Iraqi who has recently made a quiet conversion to Christianity, is a good example.
Fox News reported that Jamial “was born in the Old City of Mosul. His dad died three years before ISIS overran his beloved city, and he – as the eldest son – was left to take care of his mother and two younger siblings, working in a local supermarket to make ends meet. As the battle to reclaim Mosul gathered intensity in the first half of 2017, Jamial [took his family and] left behind all his belongings and fled north to a displacement camp in the Kurdish capital of Erbil.”
Jamial explained, “One day, ISIS came to the house as they were unhappy with my mother and my sister. They wanted to take them away and I begged them not to, I said I would do whatever I could to protect them. So for two years and eight months, we were forced to live under their rule and do what they say.”
Now, Jamial lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, saying with confidence, “I know in my heart God will save me.”
Many other persecuted Christians like those in Jamial’s family fled the region to many different parts of the world, wherever they could survive, including the U.S. However, for many of those coming to our country, immigrant life hasn’t always worked out as they expected.
An article in World Magazine caught my attention, titled, “Left Behind,” about Middle East Christians still being deserted after five years since ISIS destroyed their cities and culture. It is an article that all conservatives – and particularly Christian conservatives – need to ponder and pray about, especially during this Holy Week.
World reported, “The number of Middle East Christians admitted into the United States in 2018 fell by a staggering 98 percent from 2016. Christians from countries Open Doors ranked highest for religious persecution saw a 76 percent decline from 2016 to 2018. The trend continues in 2019. By March 2019 the United States had welcomed only 30 Iranian Christians, 25 Iraqi Christians, and zero Syrian Christian refugees.” (Compare those numbers to the 14,496 Muslims who were admitted into the U.S. during 2017).
That is staggeringly low number, especially when one considers that over 100,000 immigrants just tried to cross our southern border this past month (March), which is a 35 percent increase over the prior month and more than twice as many as the same period last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And that number could be as high as “1 million by the end of 2019!
So, more than twice the illegal immigrants are trying to cross our southern border, while persecuted Christians coming into the U.S. from the Middle East dropped by 98 percent? One hundred thousand are at our southern border in a single month, and yet we welcomed only 30 Iranian Christians, 25 Iraqi Christians and zero Syrian Christian refugees in the first quarter of 2019? Does anyone see a disproportion there? Why is it countless Democrat leaders fight for immigrants crossing our southern border but they are as rare as Bigfoot sightings to see one fighting for Christian refugees coming from the Middle East?
To add insult to injury, some Iraqi and Syrian Christians already here in the U.S. are being deported back.
For example, a growing community of Christian refugees in Detroit from Iraq and Syria helped elect the president into office because of his promises to help their own family members being hunted by ISIS in the Middle East. Many of those relatives who made it to the U.S. are now facing deportation back to Iraq because of the president’s immigration policies and enforcements. In 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained around 130 Iraqi Christians from the Detroit area.
I am not talking about giving anyone preferential treatment, just proper proportional treatment based upon commitments the White House has already made to Middle East persecuted Christians. President Trump and Vice President Pence, please don’t leave Christian refugees behind!
The fact is that 11 Christians around the world are killed every day for doing nothing more than believing and following Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Many of those murders occur in Islamic states.
Afghanistan, an Islamic state by constitution, does not permit any faith other than Islam to exist and is only second to North Korea in its brutal persecution of Christians. According to Open Doors ministry, the other three of the top five Christian-persecuted countries are Libya, Somalia and Pakistan, all Islamic-dominated states.
The global persecution of Christians is at an all-time high, especially in Islamic states, and even in countries many might consider more tolerant than others.
For example, the Middle East Forum reported last summer, “While Christians make up less than half a percent of Turkey’s population, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Reconciliation Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) depict [Christians] as a grave threat to the stability of the nation.”
It added, “Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches released its annual ‘Rights Violation Report,’ which claimed that anti-Christian hate speech had increased in Turkey in both social and conventional media, reaching extreme levels during the 2016 Christmas season. Churches in particular faced serious terror threats with the government doing little to stop these open Christophobic displays.”
I have written a score of articles on the crisis at the U.S. southern border. I am all for legal immigration and a more thorough vetting process. But what occurred to persecuted Christians under ISIS via beheadings and other torturous cruelties is also a genuine immigration and humanitarian crisis, and a mission we haven’t completed yet. We should help persecuted Christians rebuild their lives if they want to stay in the Middle East, or welcome them into the U.S. if they genuinely still need to escape for their safety. There’s certainly a form of expedited legal entrance and path to citizenship we could enact in the U.S. for those who have already gravely suffered under ISIS or brutal anti-Christian regimes like it in the Middle East.
My brother Wieland was killed in the Vietnam War, and I dedicated many of my action movies to him. I worked hard in those films to show our Vietnam vets’ dedication and sacrifice, and that they deserved a hero’s welcome when they returned home. And most of all, that we shouldn’t have left any behind.
Our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters deserve the same treatment, especially while we have a pro-Christian administration at the helm of our country that has already committed to help them. Wouldn’t we want the same if we or our loved ones were in their shoes?
As you celebrate Holy Week this week, please say a prayer for the persecuted church everywhere, share this article on your social media, and then send it along to your representatives and the White House asking for their continued assistance to “not leave persecuted Christian refugees behind.”
(For more on persecuted Christians around the world, go to Open Doors website. And if you need more information about why persecuted Christians are so passionate for their faith, read this free online version of “The God Questions” about the evidence for God, the Bible and Christianity from our pastor for your Holy Week reflection.)