Who is fighting for Christianity?
By Congressman Luke Messer
Vigils were held across the country last week in honor of the dozens of Ethiopian Christians recently slaughtered by ISIS militants in Libya. From San Diego to Nashville, thousands came together to mourn the loss of those shot or beheaded for being “followers of the cross.” Unfortunately, a scan of recent headlines over the last few months will confirm this barbaric act isn’t unique. It is just the latest in a systematic attempt by ISIS and similar Islamic terrorist groups to rid the world of Christianity around the globe.
Just a few weeks ago, 148 Christian students were executed by al-Shabaab gunmen in Kenya. In February, ISIS beheaded nearly two dozen Egyptian Christians. In Iraq, more than 125,000 people who refuse to denounce their faith have been forced from their homes over the last 10 months. That number includes those living in Mosul who had their houses marked with the Arabic symbol for the letter “N” for Nazarenes, a derogatory Arabic word for Christians. They were told they had to convert, pay a fine or face the sword—most chose to flee.
As ISIS and other terrorist groups continue to expand their reach through the Middle East and Africa, we cannot continue to stand idly by as our Christian brothers and sisters are methodically murdered. According to the Pew Research Foundation, government sponsored attacks on religious freedom are at a seven year high. Yet, it seems our President refuses to acknowledge the existential threat Christians in the Middle East currently face.
On more than one occasion the President Obama has condemned terrorist attacks where Christians were killed without ever mentioning that the victims were targeted because of their Christian faith. And, let us not forget the President recently told Christians to refrain from getting “on our high horse” and to “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Let me be clear: When innocent people are being beheaded or burned to death, we should all be on our high horse and united in our resolve to stop those who commit these atrocities.
That’s why last year Congress passed a bill creating a Special Envoy for Religious Minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. That person would be responsible for promoting religious freedom and combatting acts of religious intolerance in the region. Sadly, the President has yet to assign anyone to the post.
In addition, I have co-sponsored new legislation, H.R. 1150, the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015, which would improve U.S. religious freedom efforts around the world. The bill expands diplomatic training and counter-terrorism coordination and bolsters foreign assistance efforts to advance religious freedom. The bill also gives the President the authority to impose sanctions on individuals, like leaders of ISIS, deemed as “violent non-state actors.”
It is my hope that Congress will move quickly to get this bill to the President’s desk and that the President will start to take seriously the very real threat ISIS and other terrorists groups pose to Christians everywhere. It is time for him to stop pontificating and take action.