In a strongly worded statement Monday at the meeting of the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, the bishops echoed Pope Francis’ declaration that the ongoing persecution of Christians across the Middle East is “nothing short of genocide.”

The bishops pledged themselves, and asked all Catholics and people of good will, to make sure the persecuted Christians are “never forgotten by the powerful in a position to help them.”

At almost the same moment the bishops were issuing their statement, perhaps the most powerful man in the world in “a position to help them” was chiding politicians — his opponents — for having the temerity to suggest that a people facing genocide might be allowed some degree of preference, or prioritization, something we might even call “affirmative action.”

Describing their suggestion as “shameful,” President Obama, who has so far, according to Nina Shea in a recent piece in National Review, allowed just 53 Syrian Christians into the United States and whose State Department is poised to exclude Christians from any designation of genocide, with his voice rising, according to reports, said that was “un-American.”

What is truly shameful is the ever-clearer bias and hostility towards the persecuted Christians by the Obama administration. This includes the denial of visitor visas to Iraqi nuns and the refusal to name radical Islam as the perpetrator of horrors unseen since the Middle Ages — while, of course, reminding us all of the violence used by Christians during the Crusades. In its imminent refusal to recognize the genocide, the administration (and the president in particular) clearly believe that Pope Francis, the U.S. Catholic Bishops — the thousands of Syrian and Iraqi Christians who fled ISIS with only the clothes they were wearing — are all wrong.

There are no crucifixions, Christian boys are not being told to “convert or die,” Christian girls — as young as 6 — are not being sold into sex slavery, despite being advertised in Dabiq, the glossy magazine of ISIS. 

It is all an illusion.

Christians are not in the refugee camps run by the United Nations. Many of these camps have been infiltrated by ISIS; in Jordan, Christians in the camps were once again told by ISIS supporters to “convert or die” (the very horror they thought they had escaped). In Erbil and the other parts of Kurdish Iraq, the Christians are all together in camps run by the church. There are no ISIS infiltrators; the people come from the same villages and extended families.

Vetting is a relatively simple procedure, although time consuming, and would require many more staff in the Consulate in Erbil, which has been notably unfriendly to visa requests from Christians, as I heard firsthand this May. Also, Christians from that ancient culture, who are still speaking Aramaic, the language of Christ, have “Christian” names – something rather helpful in determining if someone is Muslim or not. I did not meet one Christian in Iraq named Mohammed.

Affirmative action, avoiding prejudice, tolerance — these things are all promoted regularly by the administration for any number of causes, including LGBTQ rights, and the promotion of contraception and abortion in foreign countries in return for U.S. aid, which was described recently by a prominent African cardinal as a “worse form” of colonialism than under the old colonial masters.

Yet there has been no recognition, prioritization, or preferential treatment for a people facing genocide. In 1943, at the height of the Holocaust, a prominent liberal journalist, Freda Kirchwey, lambasted President Franklin Roosevelt, Congress, and herself for their complicity in doing nothing.

“We had it in our power,” she wrote, “to rescue this doomed people and we did not lift a hand to do it. Or perhaps it would be fairer to say that we lifted just one cautious hand, encased in a tight-fitting glove of quotas and visas and affidavits and a thick layer of prejudice.”

When the powerful, in a position to help a people targeted for genocide, fail to protect them because of a “thick layer of prejudice” — that is truly shameful.

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