Feb 20, 2017
When I visited Erbil, Iraq, in December with a congressional delegation determined to find out why Christians had often been excluded from U.S. aid programs, Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud of Mosul told us that Americans generally care more about endangered frogs than about endangered Christian communities.
He has a point.
Christians have lived in the region for almost 2,000 years. Many still speak the language of Jesus. But although they, and other minority communities, are now seriously endangered, some Americans seem more worried that they might get priority than that they might disappear completely.
The Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh – and its antecedents – imposed a strict religious test and then targeted minority religious communities for elimination. At best, these communities fled, but lost everything in the process.
Those who are outraged that we might now prioritize them are forgetting America’s proud tradition of prioritizing genocide survivors, and the dark moments when we ignored them.
After horrifically refusing admission to Jewish refugees on the S.S. St. Louis in 1939, the United States later changed course and numerically prioritized displaced European Jews. They had suffered a uniquely horrible targeting – even if there were more German, French and Italian refugees, who were also displaced and suffering.
During and after World War I as well, the U.S. government worked with Near Eastern Relief to aid Armenian and other Christian communities targeted for genocide by the Ottoman Empire. The American people solidly supported the effort.
It is not un-American to prioritize those who have been targeted for genocide because of their faith. It has been seen as quintessentially American for a century.