Save Persecuted Religious Minorities First

A Christian militiaman patrols Telskuf, northern Iraq, on Nov. 4, 2015. (Photo: John Moore, Getty Images)
A Christian militiaman patrols Telskuf, northern Iraq, on Nov. 4, 2015. (Photo: John Moore, Getty Images)

It’s not un-American to save Assyrian Christians, Yazidis and others from genocide.

President Obama says it would be offensive to our values to save just Syrian Christian refugees. But since when is it un-American to stop genocide?

At a news conference Monday at the summit in Antalya, Turkey, of the Group of 20 major and emerging economic powers, Obama denounced those who say America should “just admit the Christians but not the Muslims” fleeing war-torn Syria. “That’s shameful,” he declared. “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

However, for at-risk religious minorities in Syria and Iraq, this is not simply a question of compassion; it is a matter of life or death. The U.S. may not impose religious tests, but the Islamic State terrorist group does. Muslims who remain under the oppressive rule of the caliphate might suffer, but Yazidis, Assyrian Christians and other indigenous religious minorities are marked for extermination, with women and children sold into sex slavery.

Obama would do well to familiarize himself with the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” ISIL might be killing individual Muslims, but it is not trying to destroy the Islamic faith. It is, however, seeking out members of small, historically rooted religious populations, many of whom have lived peacefully in that part of the world forcenturies before Islam existed. ISIL is not only annihilating them; its fighters proudly post videos of their atrocities on YouTube.

There are practical reasons to favor non-Muslim refugees as well. FBI Director James Comey said last month that it would be more challenging to prevent jihadist terrorist infiltration among the tens of thousands of Syrians the Obama administration is seeking to bring to the USA. The attacks in Paris on Friday, believed to have been conducted in part by a man posing as a refugee, demonstrate the deadly consequences of this irresponsible policy. Singling out proven non-Muslims for easier admission reduces the chances that those allowed inside our borders will be radical Islamist infiltrators. It is not only the ethical thing to do, but it also better safeguards American security.

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James Robbins

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