Wednesday, November 18, 2015

World War III, Syrian Refugees and Prudence

"Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director and regulator, the standard of them all." - Edmund Burke

Christians are being targeted for genocide but U.S. State Department silent
Pope Francis on September 13, 2014 declared that World War III was already underway and that it was "one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction." His Holiness also declared the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris a part of this war.

The United States is already engaged in this war with troops on the ground in Syria that predate the November 13th attacks and that will now be intensified. Patrick J. Buchanan in an important column outlines what has been going on in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS):
The President’s strategy is to contain, degrade and defeat ISIS. While no one has provided the troops to defeat ISIS, the U.S. is using Kurdish and Yazidi forces, backed by U.S. air power, to degrade it. And recent months have seen measured success. The Kurds have run ISIS out of Kobani, captured much of the Turkish-Syrian border, and moved to within 30 miles of Raqqa, the ISIS capital. Yazidis and Kurds last week recaptured Sinjar in Iraq and cut the highway between Mosul and Raqqa. The terrorist attacks in Paris, the downing of the Russian airliner in Sinai, the ISIS bomb that exploded in the Shiite sector of Beirut, are ISIS’s payback. But they could also be signs that the ISIS caliphate, imperiled in its base, is growing desperate and lashing out.
Now there is a debate raging in the United States concerning what to do about Syrian refugees fleeing from the Islamic State. This requires both courage, prudence and a recognition of the realities on the ground over there and over here.

First, the United States does not have its borders under control and terrorist cells are probably already in the United States. At the same time American intelligence services have, following the September 11, 2001 debacle, had a decent record in stopping terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Secondly, ISIS has been engaged in all out genocide against religious minorities in the territory it occupies targeting Yazidis, Christians, and Turkmen. Christians in the Middle East, especially with the start of the second Iraq war have been victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide, but this has been ignored by both the Bush and Obama administrations. This could be the end of Christianity in the Middle East and the U.S. State Department refuses to recognize this ongoing situation.

Back in April 2015, I met with the president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, Juliana Taimoorazy, and blogged about this issue which predates the Iraq war with the Armenian genocide that began a hundred years ago in 1915 that ended in 1923 targeting Christians.
In the 1930s the failure of Western Democracies to take in Jewish refugees highlighted in the disgraceful episode of the SS St. Louis Voyage of the Damned in 1939 sent a signal to the Nazis that they could do what they wanted with the Jewish population in Europe without any consequences.

Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen are being targeted for extermination and need to be given refuge. This should be done in a prudent manner, taking safeguards, but remembering that the lesson of the Good Samaritan in the Bible calls out to us to protect and assist refugees. Father Longenecker offers the following counsel, although his scope is narrower than mine:
..."Christian charity demands that we welcome the stranger and give solace to the homeless where we are able. We are the richest and most prosperous and bountiful country in history. We can, and should make room for the homeless and those displaced by war–especially as our own involvement in the Middle East has contributed to the mess. We have meddled in the countries of the Middle East–in their politics, their economics, their wars and their military coups. We’ve propped and then toppled their dictators. We’ve invaded their countries and bombed their people. Of course we should take in their homeless refugees. On the other hand, when you see the hordes of fit young men streaming across the European borders you can’t help but suspect that these are not refugees but an invading army. Should we open the borders to just anyone? Of course not. Why can’t anyone use common sense? ... Furthermore, why not be even more selective and take only family groups with husband, wife and children or one parent and their children or family groups with extended family members like grandparents? Are there single people who need help? Accept women and their children. Accept old people. Accept the disabled, the poor and blind. In that way we offer loving Christian charity to those in need while excluding those who might be a risk."
Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen should be provided refuge and measures set up to avoid taking in terrorists disguised as refugees. Senator Cruz's call to give a priority to Christian refugees entering the United States should be rooted in the recognition that they are the largest group in the area targeted for genocide. Shiite Muslims have Iran as a nearby sanctuary. At the same time it is imperative to get the borders and ports of the United States under greater control to prevent the incursion of more terrorists.

It is also important to remember that not all Christians and Yazidis are leaving, some have stayed to fight and take their last stand against ISIS. A friend of mine Jordan Allot, who made a documentary on Cuban prisoner of conscience Oscar Elías Bicet in 2010, traveled to Iraq and Syria with an Assyrian-American school teacher from New York to raise awareness about the plight of the Christian communities there and made the documentary Our Last Stand.

The threat of terrorism remains and we are in the midst of a terrible global conflict but we should not lose our humanity in confronting it or showing solidarity with its victims, but we must do so prudently in order not to compound the present evils.

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