On Christian Persecution, Obama Gets It Half Right

Today President Obama released a Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas. The statement is long overdue, and I applaud it. Here is Obama’s statement in its entirety:

During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing. Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.

In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.

We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations. As the old Christmas carol reminds us:

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

Obama’s statement is welcome in several respects. He unequivocally identifies himself and his family as Christians, and recognizes that some Christians “have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.” He ties this persecution to “some areas of the Middle East,” which is certainly where it is most virulent.

But Obama falls far short by suggesting that the only source of such persecution is ISIL. In fact, the murder and oppression of Christians and members of other faiths is general throughout most of the Muslim world.

Raymond Ibrahim has done a great service by documenting, month by month, the Islamic persecution of Christians. His most recent tabulation, released a couple of weeks ago, documents such incidents during the month of September. Interestingly, Ibrahim begins:

Throughout September, as more Christians were slaughtered and persecuted for their religion—not just by the Islamic State but by “every day” Muslims from all around the world—increasing numbers of people and organizations called for action, while those best placed to respond—chief among them U.S. President Obama and Pope Francis—did nothing.

Obama still has done nothing, but he as at least begun to nod vaguely in the direction of the problem.

For the month of September alone, Ibrahim documents instances of murder and oppression of Christians in Uganda, the United States, Syria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Egypt, Tanzania, “Palestine,” Iraq, Yemen, Indonesia, England, Turkey, Ethiopia, Germany and Lebanon. Some of these outrages were committed by ISIL, but most were not. Further, Christians are the main current targets of Islamic wrath because there are still quite a few Christians left, relatively speaking, in majority-Muslim countries. In some regions, Muslims also oppress Hindus. In the Middle East, Jews would be persecuted too, only there are hardly any left in the countries ruled by Islamists.

Today’s proclamation is a good example of President Obama’s dogged refusal to acknowledge that there is any problem with Islam, other than the “perversions” of that otherwise-noble faith by the likes of ISIL and al Qaeda. Those groups represent, obviously, the most extreme form of Islam, but I don’t see how we can combat them and their like without recognizing that they spring from a soil that is conducive to religious persecution.