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Christians in the Middle East
The Obama Administration and the Question of Genocide

The Obama Administration is working to avoid acknowledging that a genocide against Middle East Christians is happening—even though the EU and Pope Francis say it is. As Nina Shea writes in National Review:

With pressure mounting, the State Department in October leaked word that an official genocide designation would be forthcoming but made clear that State would recognize only a Yazidi genocide and not one against Christians. This prompted Congress to mandate that Secretary John Kerry make a determination by March 16 on the precise question of whether “persecution . . . of Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists . . . constitutes genocide.”

While other administrations have committed the sin of silence where genocide was concerned, none has officially signaled that it believes a brutally persecuted and displaced minority is not suffering ongoing genocide. Yet that would be the effect of excluding the Christians from an official listing of genocide victims. Despite foreseeable harm this would cause these Christians, the administration appears on track to do just that.

The reason for refusing to say the g-word is the same as it was when the Clinton administration fought against acknowledging the genocide in Rwanda: When you use the word, you have a legal obligation to do something about the reality.

It’s an interesting world we are living in: The U.S. government brings down the hammer on a bakery run by (in our view, misguided) American Christians who don’t want to make cakes for gay weddings, but does its best to downplay the systematic destruction of Christian communities across the Middle East. We don’t think Reinhold Niebuhr, often cited by President Obama as an inspiration for his approach to foreign policy, would approve.

The government’s resistance to using the g-word is not a sustainable position, either in light of the facts on the ground or the sentiments of Congress. The State Department would be better advised to spend its energy and resources in developing policy options for dealing with genocide in accordance with U.S. and international law than in entangling itself in a discreditable and disingenuous effort to avoid using the word because it is inconvenient.

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