As in years past at this time of the year Christmas trees filled homes and nativity scenes sprouted on lawns across America. Despite annoyance with sometimes ham-handed attempts to subsume Christmas in generic “holiday” celebrations, Christians were free to celebrate their faith as in the past.
Not so tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of believers abroad. Murder by such groups as the Islamic State and Boko Haram topped pervasive persecution and discrimination in many nations. The Pew Research Center figured that Christians are harassed and harmed in more than 100 countries, the most of any religious group. Christians are particularly vulnerable to government abuse, especially in Muslim-majority states.
On Christmas Eve Senator and presidential contender Marco Rubio penned an article decrying the lack of “attention paid to the plight of these Christian communities in peril.” He criticized the Obama administration (naturally) and promoted the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (appropriately). Rubio also called for diplomatic, financial, and military support for Christians abroad.
Rubio’s concern no doubt is genuine. However, the policies implemented by his party and advocated by him and his fellow GOP presidential contenders have hurt and will continue to hurt Christians around the world. The best that can be said for Rubio is that he may be ostentatiously oblivious rather than calculatingly malicious. In contrast is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who actively aids Israeli settlers in the West Bank, harming Christian and Muslim Palestinians alike. And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who last year used a conference of persecuted Christians as a campaign prop to proclaim his everlasting fealty to Israel.No single policy was as injurious to Middle Eastern Christians as the invasion of Iraq. In this repressive but secular dictatorship, Christians were free to worship and work. The ruling Baath Party was formed by a Christian; under Saddam Hussein a nominal Christian, Tariq Aziz, was foreign minister and deputy prime minister. However, U.S. intervention triggered a sectarian conflict which drove out hundreds of thousands of Christians (many to Syria), spawned a new al-Qaeda organization which morphed into the Islamic State (now killing Christians in Iraq and Syria), and tolerated ruthless Shia rule which encouraged Baathists and Sunni tribes to support ISIL (enabling its unexpected victories). Absent George W. Bush’s Iraq folly, backed by Rubio and most of his competitors, the “murderous terrorist organization,” as Rubio termed the Islamic State, wouldn’t even exist.
The result, as the Department of State explained in its latest religious liberty report: “The security situation in the country deteriorated sharply during the year and the government lost effective control of significant terrain to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This resulted in increased levels of violence and lawlessness in that territory, as well as a destabilization of security throughout the country. Freedom of belief and practice was severely limited in areas beyond the government’s control, where ISIL targeted religious groups it considered heretical in a systematic campaign of atrocities and forced expulsion.”
Thank you, Sen. Rubio and fellow Republicans.