“Convert to Islam, leave, or die.”
This is the ultimatum, given by Islamic extremists in Iraq, that has forced thousands of Christians to flee the communities they’ve inhabited for almost 2,000 years. In the wake of this crisis, some conservative evangelicals here in the United States have been unsurprisingly quick to point the finger at the Obama administration for its lack of urgency:
- Tony Perkins of Family Research Council commented, “I’m not sure what’s more shocking: the atrocities of ISIS or the silence of the Obama administration.”
- Todd Starnes, Fox News radio host and career bomb-thrower, said via Twitter: “Obama: The fate of Iraq hangs in the balance — so we’re just gonna sit this one out.”
- David French at The Christian Post blamed the president for the chaos in Iraq, adding that when it comes to Obama’s foreign policy, “We’d laugh if lives weren’t at stake.”
Now look: The Obama administration’s pullout from Iraq has doubtlessly contributed to this crisis. But these evangelical pundits fail to recognize that Christians in Iraq have faced extreme persecution since well before Obama took office. And though admitting it may taste bitter, evangelicals themselves must share the blame for the persecution of their brothers and sisters.
In a 60 Minutes interview filmed in late 2007 — more than a year before Obama moved into the White House — the Rev. Canon Andrew White, known as the Vicar of Baghdad, said the situation for Christians in Iraq was “clearly worse” than under Saddam Hussein.
“There’s no comparison between Iraq now and then,” White told correspondent Scott Pelley. “Things are the most difficult they have ever been for Christians. Probably ever in history. They’ve never known it like now.”
Such persecution was made possible by a bipartisan American faction that supported the invasion of Iraq — an invasion that created a violent void in which sectarian violence raged. And let’s not forget that this coalition included the strong, vocal, and public support of influential evangelicals — claiming to speak on behalf of the “Prince of Peace” no less.