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ICC Note: Christians across the Middle East are facing persecution and threats that have the potential to rid countries of their Christian population for the first time in nearly 2000 years. The United States has an opportunity as a world power and an obligation from its own policies to act on behalf of persecuted communities, yet the response has been far from adequate in providing real solutions to preserve these groups. There are possibilities for change but the time is short and many are looking for answers now because they fear they won’t survive.

09/22/2015 Middle East (Washington Times) – There were two significant developments this month: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Nevada Republican and Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat, introduced a Congressional resolution denouncing as genocide the crimes committed by jihadists against Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Then came the presidential appointment — after a very long, inexcusable delay on the part of the administration, which was finally goaded into action by the papal visit — of Knox Thames as the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State.

But will the Christians suffering in the trenches in Iraq and Syria feel the concrete benefits of these actions — neither of which drew much media coverage — on the part of Congress and the president? Will they make a real difference in U.S. policy with regard to the persecuted communities still clinging to their rightful place in the lands, the very places where the Christian faith was born?

Mr. Thames, for one, is wedded to the policies of the State Department, which thus far has handled the suffering of Christians poorly. Recall also the White House reference to the 21 Copts slaughtered by ISIS in Libya as “Egyptian citizens” and the consistent refusal to acknowledge ISIS and other jihadi groups are committing their crimes in the name of Islam. That extreme caution — labeling ISIS and its ilk simply terrorist organizations — and avoiding any criticism of Islam is extreme and frankly preposterous, not to mention hurtful and insulting to the victims of the radicals.

We can only hope that Mr. Thames will be motivated and able to break the mold. Persecution at the hand of Islamists — or for that matter, at the hand of Hindus, as is happening in India — must be recognized as a category under which Christians can apply and be granted asylum.

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