Katrina Lantos Swett and I, in our roles as Vice Chairwoman and Chairman respectively of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, have an op-ed piece in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer calling attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and beyond. This topic has not been given nearly the amount of attention it deserves in the mainstream media. In part, this is because it disrupts a familiar, and, in some circles, cherished, narrative in which Christians are always the oppressors and never the oppressed.
But that doesn’t explain why American Christians themselves have been so quiet about the persecution of their fellow believers in so many places across the globe—-from China to Egypt and from Nigeria to Cuba. Israeli scholar (and my former student) Yoram Hazony, among others, has expressed puzzlement at the silence of Christians about the suffering of fellow Christians. I confess that I myself am at something of a loss to explain it. In part, I suppose, it is simply ignorance. In part, though, it reflects a concern not to be perceived as engaging in “special pleading” for co-religionists. That concern is unreasonable and should be laid aside. It is time for American Christians—-and all Americans—-to demand that our own government live up to its legal obligations under the International Religious Freedom Act and give priority in our diplomatic and foreign policy to promoting and defending religious freedom for people of all faiths—-including Christians.