Finger Lake Times, by Dan Hennessy
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
— Matthew 5:13
As far as human beings go, we’re not so very much unlike those who came before us and are probably not much unlike those who will come after us. But, the fact that large-scale crimes against humanity are ignored, even when public news of such horrors abounds, remains a stain on the soul of the species, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, Rwanda, etc., etc.
It is the week following the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and the world has so far, tragically … inexcusably … unthinkably … done to Christians what it did to the Jewish people last century: ignored them as they were slaughtered … men, women, children, grandparents, grandchildren … in mass numbers over an inexcusably long period of time.
You would think we’d have learned our lesson. But, according to Raymond Ibrahim, writing for the Gatestone Institute on March 17, the Obama Administration’s original rejection of the term “genocide” was changed to include Christians only after the House of Representatives voted 393 to 0 on a resolution that does describe Christians as victims of genocide. And yet, still there is no initiative to “fast track” Christians for immigration as they are publicly targeted for destruction. Despite the fact that, according to the Congressional Record, there is precedent to authorize “fast-tracking” due to religious persecution: in 1989 … 2004 …. 2007 … Senators Lautenberg, Specter and Kennedy, respectively, passed bills that granted priority status to specified religious minority members. [114th Congress, 2nd Session, March 17, 2016]
But do we really need any legal precedent to do what’s obviously so morally right? Do we need legal precedent to instigate a rescue action of such great human consequence? In Syria, Christians, who totaled 1.25 million in 2011, are now down to about 500,000. [“Persecuted and Forgotten?”Aid to the Church in Need, Executive Summary] According to Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D, the Christian population in Iraq has been decimated in a little over a decade, dropping from 1.4 million in 2003 to just 275,000 today. The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, has testified that for many long centuries the Christians of Iraq have experienced hardships and persecutions “but what we have now experienced are the worst acts of genocide in our homeland. We are facing the extinction of Christianity as a religion in Iraq.”
But this is not really about numbers, is it? This is about the heart and its intersection with memory. Is there a Christian mandate for fast-tracking Christians for immigration to safety in the United States? How about this: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?” [Proverbs 24:11-21]
It is the church that ought to be leading the effort to rescue Christians abroad, in keeping with the Torah and with Jesus’ teaching. The church did not “love its neighbor” during the Holocaust. Nor did it behave as the “good Samaritan” to the Jewish population of Europe and others as all were led to slaughter. Its silence was deafening. It is deafening still.
Holocaust survivor, professor and Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel says that “indifference” is “the epitome of evil,” going so far as to specify that “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” [US News & World Report, October 86]
Jesus said to his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” It’s hard to read any “indifference” into that statement. And yet, one is want to say, as concerns Christian leadership at this time in history: Is anyone listening?