Timothy Samuel Shah, a religious freedom fighter who the associate director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University spoke at a Dec. 4 Heritage Foundation panel on “Christian martyrs today.” The panel said they would welcome a designation of genocide by the U.S. for Christians, Yazidis, and other ethno-religious minorities targeted by ISIS in Iraq in Syria, but Shah added that much more must be done by U.S. Christians to aid these persecuted groups.
“I am struck by the widespread apathy and indifference and ignorance concerning this issue among Christians, let alone others,” He said.
ISIS, has inflicted countless acts of barbarity – including butchering innocent Christians, torture, rape, slavery, and displacement – upon religious and ethnic minorities of Iraq and Syria, as well as upon Sunni Muslims who oppose their caliphate.
At least 100,000 Christians have been forced to leave their homes in the Nineveh Plain in Iraq alone. ISIS has also desecrated, violated, and destroyed shrines, churches, and ancient artifacts just in an effort to destroy an entire culture.
Shah pointed to the fact that Christians cannot wait for political leaders to act, adding that Christian mobilization will bring about policy action.
“It is supremely ridiculous, if I may say, to ask the Obama administrations to bear the moral weight of this issue when we don’t bear any of the moral weight of this issue ourselves,” he said.
“Just as a basic matter of our experiencing the suffering of our brothers and sisters in some kind of way, experiencing some kind of solidarity, we are failing the test,” he continued, calling his own Catholic parish “pretty indifferent” to the plight of persecuted religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
He put forward a sort of examination of conscience for Christians, asking questions like:
Where are letters by thousands and thousands of pastors to appropriate leaders to do more about this? Where are the spontaneous grassroots campaigns? I don’t see them.”
“Do our congregational prayers reflect a deep concern about what’s happening to our brothers and sisters, patriarchs from Syria and Iraq?
“Do our Sunday schools feature any kind of discussion or teaching about what’s happening to our Christian brothers and sisters?
The answer to the questions is pretty clearly “no,” he said. “We have no intellectual, emotional, empirical, spiritual connection to what is happening to our brothers and sisters.”
Religious freedom for people of all faiths must be a priority, the panel insisted, and Christians cannot just deplore Christian persecution while ignoring persecution of other religious minorities.
The popes clearly saw that religious freedom is “rooted in the dignity of the human person,” he said, and yet Christians even today are unwilling to advocate that people of all faiths enjoy such freedom.
“We just have to admit that even some of the advocacy for persecuted Christians has a tone and has a quality that isn’t really concerned about the religious freedom of other people,” he said, pointing to the “rise of nativist rhetoric” after the Paris terror attacks as an example.