As Renzi was questioned about the incident, Obama was mute on the killings. He failed to interject any sense of outrage or even tepid concern for the targeting of Christians for their faith. He just can't seem to find any passion for the mass persecution of Middle Eastern Christians or the eradication of Christianity from its birthplace.
Religious persecution of Christians is rampant worldwide, as Pew has noted, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the Middle East and Northern Africa, where followers of Jesus are the targets of religious cleansing. Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the persecution and begged the world for help, but it has had little impact. Western leaders — including Obama — will be remembered for their near silence as this human rights tragedy unfolded. The president's mumblings about the atrocities visited upon Christians (usually extracted after public outcry over his silence) are few and far between. And it will be hard to forget his lecturing of Christians at the National Prayer Breakfast about the centuries-old Crusades while Middle Eastern Christians were at that moment being harassed, driven from their homes, tortured and murdered for their faith.
A week and a half after Obama's National Prayer Breakfast speech, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded for being "people of the cross." Seven of the victims were former students of my friend and hero "Mama" Maggie Gobran, known as the "Mother Theresa of Cairo" for her work with the poorest of the poor. She told me these dear men grew up in rural Upper Egypt and had gone to Libya seeking work to support their families. They died with dignity as they called out to their God, while the cowardly murderers masked their faces.
Rather than hectoring Christians about their ancestors' misdeeds, Obama should honor these men and the countless Middle Eastern Christians persecuted before them.
CMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody, MEd: The president's reticence on the international persecution of Christians, coupled with his administration's policies that threaten domestic religious freedom, is puzzling yet alarmingly consistent.
As the Washington Post reported, the Obama administration waited months before appointing a replacement for Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, a reputedly ineffective ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a position that should function as the State Department’s religious freedom watchdog. The administration had taken more than two years to appoint Cook, a failure of action that evidenced an extremely low priority on religious freedom.
The U.S. Commission on International Freedom, by contrast, explains that "As Americans, religious freedom reflects who and what we aspire to be as a nation and people. For the vast majority of people across the globe, religion matters: Fully 84 percent of the world’s population identifies with a specific religious group."
Pro-life colleague and Catholic scholar Dr. Robert P. George serves as vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He notes, "Abuses against Christians span the globe. A key reason is the confluence of two factors. First, there are more than 2 billion Christians in the world. Second, according to a Pew Research study, in one-third of all nations, containing 75% of the world's people, governments either perpetrate or tolerate serious religious freedom abuses. A six-year Pew study found that over six years, Christians were harassed in 151 countries, the largest of any group surveyed."
Though our own political leaders may shrink back from responsibly responding to the worldwide persecution of Christians, our persecuted brethren are standing tall as a shining example of courage and faithfulness.
- The Christian Post reports, "A number of the 21 Coptic Christians who were recently shown being beheaded in a horrific video by Islamic State militants in Libya were reportedly whispering the name of Jesus as their heads were being hacked off their bodies."
- Christianity Today reports, "The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, arrived in Cairo to offer condolences for the previous martyrs in Libya: 20 Coptic Orthodox Christians and a sub-Saharan African. 'Why has Libya spoken so powerfully to the world?' asked Welby during a public sermon. 'The way these brothers lived and died testified that their faith was trustworthy.'"
- Write to your elected officials (simply enter your zip code under "Find your elected officials" on our legislative action website) and urge them to take appropriate and strong legislative, diplomatic and military action to stop the persecution and killings of Christians overseas and to advance religious freedom worldwide and at home.
- Consider serving our brethren overseas, some of whom experience great hardship under governments hostile to Christians, on a Global Health Outreach or Medical Education International trip.
USCIRF 2014 Annual Report