by Leo Thuman
Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf, the Orthodox Bishop of Mosul and one of the leading Christian voices in the Middle East, gave a stirring interview to the National Catholic Register a few years ago. That interview, while informative, also sent a message that should trouble us all: the West cares more about frogs than about Middle-Eastern Christians.
Unfortunately, events around the globe this week have shown that this dichotomy is alive and well. The mainstream media and progressive newsmakers have devoted a great deal of attention to long-term climate issues, and lately they have been placing a young girl who doesn’t have an educational or career background in environmental science, Greta Thunberg, on a pedestal. This culminated Monday in a speech before the United Nations where Thunberg received heaps of adoration from the media. However, comparatively little coverage was given to an arguably more important event that same day: “A Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom.”
But while most of the press and many politicians from around the globe were focused on the metaphorical “frogs” over embattled Christians, a few leaders placed a greater priority on religious freedom. President Trump was one of those leaders. Not only did he appear at the “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom” event, but he even hosted it and delivered its keynote speech.
In his speech President Trump focused on the need for every country not only to protect religious freedom at home, but also to take responsibility abroad to protect it. He placed a particular emphasis on the serious global problem of anti-Christian persecution, which may be the most common form of religious persecution in the world today. Noting the distressful scale of anti-Christian persecution, the President said: “I mean just think of this, 11 Christians [die] a day for following the teaching of Christ.”
However, the event didn’t solely focus on persecution committed against Christians. President Trump also acknowledged that anti-religious bigotry, writ large, knows no doctrinal bounds. Highlighting the breadth of anti-religious terrorism, he voiced concern about anti-Semitic terrorism, especially the recent events in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., and a tragic armed attack on a mosque in New Zealand. Again, the President asserted the necessity of addressing threats against people of faith wherever they appear and whoever they appear against.
Despite the breadth of the President’s speech, there were, of course, some critics. Some pointed out that during his speech, the President didn’t mention the escalating situation of Uighurs being imprisoned in camps in China’s Xinjiang province. However, later the daughter of an imprisoned Uighur academic and dissident, Jewher Ilham, spoke about the repression the Uighur people, a Muslim minority, face under China’s Communist government. Additionally, a press release from the White House that morning gave further assurance to the international community that the administration takes China’s religious freedom violations very seriously. Critics also forget that the administration has prepared sanctions against China for its religious persecution in Xinjiang, and that these sanctions have been ready since late June.
While those frog-defenders who the aforementioned Iraqi bishop rightly blamed for the plight of suffering Christians chose to listen to a young girl’s inappropriate emotional outburst, others took meaningful action around serious issues. Thankfully, President Trump and his administration were in the latter camp.