By Timothy George, First Things
Many colleges and universities open the new academic year with a special assembly or convocation that is generally an upbeat occasion of welcome and new beginnings. The Catholic University of America held such an event several days ago, and it included, appropriately enough, a beautiful mass led by Washington’s Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl. The music was sublime and the liturgy well ordered. Dr. John Garvey, the president of CUA, was presented with an award by the Archdiocese of Washington. It was an altogether appropriate and uplifting event. But just before the dismissal, the tone was changed as Cardinal Wuerl, speaking without notes, delivered this admonition with a sense of urgency:
We hear so much today of the word solidarity. It has become a part of our vocabulary in the past twenty or thirty years. Today our solidarity with brothers and sisters of our faith, and of other faiths, in a part of the world where there is clearly an effort to eliminate them is something that we simply cannot in conscience ignore. Often we are asked: “How was it possible that in human history atrocities occur?” They occur for two reasons: because there are those prepared to commit them, and then there are those who remain silent. And the actions in Iraq and in Syria today are happening to women, children, men—their displacement not the least. Things happening to them is something that we really are not free to ignore, and sometimes all we have to raise is our voice. . . .
I ask myself: Where are these voices? Where the voices of parliaments and congresses? Where are the voices of campuses? Where are the voices of community leaders? . . . Why a silence?
Until quite recently, there were a few—though just a few—who did speak out about the atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Back in July, columnist Kirsten Powers referred to the religicide of Christianity in the Middle East: “Iraq’s Christians are begging the world for help. Is anybody listening?” she asked. And there was the estimable Frank Wolf, a member of the House of Representatives from Virginia, who came to the House floor on seven consecutive legislative days to protest the “convert or be killed” policy of Muslim militants in the Middle East. He called on President Obama to take five steps that could have made a difference in that dire situation, none of them involving additional funding or American “boots on the ground.” The response from the leader of the free world, seemingly oblivious to the problem, was an ungolden silence.