Millions of Christians have fled their homes in Syria and Iraq since 2011 fearing genocide at the hands of Islamic extremists. Christians across the broader Middle East regularly face persecution for practicing their faith. Christians in Iraq and Syria face some of the most severe persecution of any religious group in the world, stemming from the spread of ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups.
Christians in the United States must take an active role in addressing this crisis by advocating for a foreign policy agenda that promotes stability in the Middle East, and protects our brothers and sisters in Christ. These reforms may include: increasing the number of Christian refugees from the Middle East to the United States; creating a protective space for Christians in Iraq and Syria; and dramatically increasing military operations against Islamic extremists.
The violence and persecution faced by Christians in Iraq and Syria signifies the failure of the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda. The Obama administration relied heavily on a “leading from behind” foreign policy approach throughout its disastrous eight-year tenure, and allowed ISIS to gain a significant foothold in Iraq and Syria.
This bleak tenure had significant effects across the broader Middle Eastern Christian community, as families flee their homes with no place to go. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which once boasted one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
When ISIS gained control of Mosul in 2014, over 100,000 Christians fled their homes in fear of violence and persecution. Christians who were forced to stay are subject to Islamic rule, which forces them to pay high taxes, convert to Islam, or face public execution. While Mosul is now free from ISIS control, the damage remains.
Christians in Syria face no better fate, as they are trapped in the middle of a bloody civil war between the Assad regime and the Islamic rebels. As the civil war has raged on, more than one million Christians have fled Syria, according to World Watch Monitor, a publication that tracks Christian persecution across the globe.
The Obama administration still failed to offer any support to these vulnerable refugees, even in the face of full knowledge. Worse, the decision was made as Christian activists and foreign policy experts sounded the alarm of a possible near extinction of the Iraqi and Syrian Christian population.
President Donald Trump has taken a much stronger role than Obama in promoting policies that help Christians in the Middle East, but there is still much work to be done. Islamic extremists continue to control significant areas of the region, and Christians face persecution, violence and death. Christians who have been forced to flee their homes remain in hiding and have no safe place to settle.
There has never been a greater time than now for Christians in the United States to step up and promote American leadership in the region to defend the faithful. We as Christians have a moral obligation to defend our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we must take an active role in advocating for policies to do just that.