ON-Lion Letter

"In a brief, nationally televised announcement on August 7th regarding the Islamic State, which invaded the multicultural, northern Nineveh Province of Iraq this summer, President Obama observed that 'these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yazidis,'" begins an article by Nina Shea in the November/December 2014 World Affairs journal.

"The brutal persecution of Iraq's non-Muslim religious groups is part of a human rights atrocity that is as grave as it is overlooked in American foreign policy," Shea continues in "Barbarism 2014:  On Religious Cleansing by Islamists."  "The president’s eight-and-a-half-minute speech hardly scratched the surface.  In fact, what the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, is undertaking in Iraq, as part of its effort to establish an Islamic caliphate, is a religious cleansing intended to eradicate the entire presence of the country’s non-Muslim citizens. 

"Nor is this campaign restricted to Iraq," she writes.  "Similar campaigns are under way in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.  They are being carried out by a multitude of extremist groups and directed against a variety of minorities, although they are directed most commonly and with special zeal against Christian communities that in some cases have coexisted with Muslims for more than a thousand years.  Militant groups such as the Islamic State are mostly to blame, but extremist influences have also gained official footing within some governments.  In most places where religious oppression of Christians is taking place, Christians and other targeted religious communities find that their governments typically turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to their plight."

Shea directs the Center for Religious Freedom (CRF) at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports CRF.

"[I]n Iraq, where the president has reauthorized the use of American military power to, among other things, 'prevent a potential act of genocide' based on religion, there is still no broader US strategy to protect non-Muslims once the present crisis subsides," Shea concludes.  "The vast majority of the two hundred to three hundred thousand Christians remaining in Iraq are now displaced for the foreseeable future.  None of the president’s policy responses to the religious cleansing of the Islamic State has been calculated to help the survivors to resettle within the Shiite or Kurdish areas of their country now that they are barred from returning to their own homelands; and none has been aimed at helping Christians escape annihilation of their communities.

"'Crime against humanity' is not an accusation the US government should deploy lightly.  But it should know it when it sees it.  And what is taking place now in parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia is a tragic eyeful."

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