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September 16, 2015
Column #1,777
Invite 100,000 Christian Refugees
By Mike McManus

The New York Times Magazine published an extensive article in July, "Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?"

In June, 2014 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over Mosul. "For the first time in 2,000 years, there are no church services in Mosul. Then the West comes up with one solution by granting visas to a few hundred people. What about a few hundred thousand?" said the Rev. Emanuel Youkhana, head of Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq.

In 2014 I reported seeing pictures of ISIS crucifixions of children. Teenagers were strung up off the ground with their arms tied to iron poles. Islamists take pictures of the horror and send them to news media. While some were removed after 8 hours, 8 Christian men from Aleppo received the same punishment and didn't survive. Their crucified bodies hung for three days.

Islamic radicals are also beheading children, and placing their heads on hoods of cars, and are forcing hundreds of mothers to be wives for Islamic troops in a war against Christians and a small sect called Yazidis. Three thousand Yazidi women have been forced into sexual slavery.

In response President Obama remarked, "The terrorists that have taken over parts of Iraq have been especially brutal to religious minorities rounding up families, executing men, enslaving women and threatening the systematic destruction of an entire religious community which would be genocide."

His comments were helpful, but why can't he say Christians are being persecuted? And why can't he call them Muslim terrorists?

Shortly after ISIS captured Mosul, a city of 1.5 million, second largest in Iraq, militants painted a red Arabic "n" for Nasrane, a slur, on Christian homes.

ISIS offered Christian residents a choice. They could either convert to Islam, or pay the jizya, the head tax levied against all "People of the book": Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews. If they refused, they would be killed, raped or enslaved, their wealth taken as spoils of war.

Twenty miles from Mosul, ISIS targeted Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq, a once flourishing with 50,000 people on the Ninevah Plain, a 1,500 square mile plot of contested land between Iraq's Kurdish north and its Arabic south. It was a flourishing city, Iraq's breadbasket of wheat fields and chicken and cattle farms.

First, ISIS cut the city's water. Thousands began to flee, but ISIS did not arrive. Many people returned home in a few days. A week later, the Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, whom the Iraqi government asked to defend Qaraqosh, retreated declaring they did not have the weapons to defend the city.

This was doubly disastrous. The Kurds refused to allow Ninevah Plain people to arm themselves, and even rounded up their weapons months earlier, leaving them defenseless.
Tens of thousands piled into pickup trucks and fled.

When ISIS arrived, men who remained were separated from women. The young were parted from the older and weak. Men who refused to convert were whipped or killed.

Most of Iraq's Christians call themselves Assyrians, Chaldeans or Syriac different names for a common ethnicity rooted in Mesopotamia that flourished thousands of years before Christianity arrived in in the first century.

When the first Islamic armies invaded during the 7th Century, the Assyrian Church was sending missionaries to China, India and Mongolia. However, from 1910 to 2010, the percentage of the Middle East that was Christian declined from 14% to 4%. The Times reports they are all but gone in Iran and Turkey. Lebanon's Christians have shrunk from 78% of the population to 34%.

The rest are fleeing for their lives. Of the 3.1 million displaced Iraqis, 465,000 are Christian. Where are they going? Lebanon closed its borders to almost all, but made an exception for Christians fleeing ISIS. A string of Christian towns stand empty. About 700,000 moved to Kurdistan. But many live on the streets.

What can be done? The U.S. has accepted only 1,500 refugees so far. Germany is welcoming 800,000 and is urging other countries to take their share. Obama has offered to take 10,000. His fear is that some Muslim refugees are Islamic terrorists - a valid fear. ISIS is seeding its terrorists among those fleeing to Europe.

I suggest limiting the refugees we accept to Christians, but welcome 100,000. Four Christian charities such as CARE USA and Oxfam, have offered to help 100,000 resettle.

Let's do so, but take other steps to help, such as sending more relief to millions living in camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

We are a Christian country. Let's show it.

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