It’s now a couple of weeks of news cycles since we learned from satellite imagery that the Islamic State had destroyed the monastery of St. Elijah, which for more than 11 centuries served as a spiritual oasis for the promulgation of Christianity in the Middle East.
Because of our own century’s dizzying acceleration of history, I’m afraid, the unfathomable destruction of this priceless site already may be receding from our minds.
The Sunni terrorists, as we know, have declared war on modernity, on human progress, on civilization itself. They signal this apocalyptic intention by targeting any physical antiquity that stands in their way — prior to St. Elijah, they blew up Roman ruins at Palmyra in Syria.
What we sometimes call Christendom stands idly by, with the exceptional evidence of limited U.S. airstrikes and more aggressive raids by the Russians. This colossal indifference cannot be explained away. By itself it is horrifying.
So what will happen to those individual Christians standing in the way of a murderous caliphate in the making?
Many have been forced into coffins or made to stand in cages, doused with flammable fluid, and set ablaze. Many, as we’ve seen time after time, have been forced to their knees, their heads to be sawed off. Or they have been — to give it a measure of symbolic cruelty — crucified. Christian women, Yazidi women, women of other religious minorities — and the children of all — have been similarly mistreated, tortured or forced into sexual slavery.
The world has watched these monstrous proceedings for more than a year. And whereas many Christian organizations have gone into embattled Mesopotamia to rescue their brothers and sisters, official U.S. policy remains mired in deep denial or at the least an intentional inability to see what is clearly a historic catastrophe.
Consider the astonishing answer Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for our military operations in the region, gave to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who brought to his attention the slaughter of thousands of Christians and the forced flight of hundreds of thousands more: “Wolf, [the Islamic State] doesn’t care if you’re a Christian . We’ve seen no specific evidence of a specific targeting toward Christians.”
You could almost hear journalist Raymond Ibrahim of the Gatestone Institute clearing his throat when he responded in his blog: “Except that roughly two-thirds of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christian citizens have been killed or forced to flee the country by ISIS and its jihadi predecessors over the past decade. This has nothing to do with their religious identity?”
In fact, what is happening is genocide carried out before our eyes, and its ultimate target is us. Forgive the graphic image, but each day we do not act a jihadi blade is likelier to slice into a Christian neck. Each moment we try to avert our attention Christian flesh is about to be incinerated. When our policymakers adjust their morning showers from scalding to soothing, perhaps they should pause for a moment to contemplate the extreme fiery pain so many victims of ISIS are made to feel in those last moments of life.
Late last year I was among a handful of lawmakers who introduced urgent bills to respond as we are morally called to do, indeed, to preserve our very meaning as a people in the 21st century. Mine, H.R. 4017, is the only one actually to invoke the law so that persecuted Christians and Yazidis would be given emergency status.
In short, my bill says, whether refugee or immigrant, a person targeted for genocide is granted priority status, and it declares Christians and Yazidis to be targets of genocide.
Existing immigration law allows us to do just that. And yet the Obama administration, in all its Orwellian political piety, reacted as if we were engaging in religious discrimination by moving to save victims specifically targeted because they are Christians or Yazidis.
This, Obama officialdom complained, placed Christians ahead of all others; such prioritization, they insisted, was “not who we are” — and other such Beelzebubian blather.