(By William Doino Jr., First Things). Two years after its release, this still photo, taken from an ISIS propaganda video, remains as haunting as ever: a long line of Christian Coptic men in orange jump suits, forced to kneel and await execution simply for being Christian and refusing to renounce their religious beliefs. Even as the blades of the jihadists approached their necks, the martyrs cried out, “Ya Rabbi Yasou!” (“O My Lord Jesus!”).
That image, perhaps more than any other, has come to symbolize the fate of Christians in the Middle East. “What we are witnessing,” said human rights lawyer Nina Shea in a recent interview with me, “is a wave of horrific persecutions that may well eradicate Christian presence from the Middle East.”
To illustrate that, Angelico Press has just published The Persecution and Genocide of Christians in the Middle East: Prevention, Prohibition and Prosecution, edited by law professors Ronald Rychlak and Jane Adolphe. It brings together more than a dozen scholarly essays written by experts like Shea, and covers every aspect of this ongoing tragedy with an urgency rarely conveyed by books.
The opening chapters document ISIS’s targeted and wholesale destruction of Christian communities in the Middle East—especially in Iraq and Syria—underscoring what Pope Francis told the European Parliament in 2014:
Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular.…They are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified, or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.
Three years have passed since Francis made his emotional appeal, but as this book painfully shows, the situation of Christians in the Middle East remains perilous. For while the armed forces of America and its allies have vigorously fought ISIS militarily, most of our political and diplomatic leaders have done shockingly little to address the specific concerns of its Christian victims.
One reason is the extreme reluctance, in certain influential circles, to declare ISIS guilty of genocide against Christians. Some fear that using the word “genocide” will trigger burdensome legal obligations and spark political demands to combat it. Others claim that ISIS could not be committing genocide against Christians, since they respect them as “People of the Book” and thus give them the option of paying a tax to avoid persecution and death. And still others believe that raising the issue specifically on behalf of Christians would make America appear “sectarian” and even “Islamophobic,” since the perpetrators are self-professed Muslims.
All these arguments are demolished in this book.