Mid­dle East cul­tures un­der attack

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY JOHN J. MET­ZLER

Through­out the chaos, calamity and con­flict which has be­fallen the Mid­dle East, there are few groups which have come un­der such in­tense attack as Chris­tians and mi­nor­ity eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties. As coun­tries like Iraq and Syria face the sharp end of eth­nic and po­lit­i­cal strife, the per­se­cu­tion of small but sig­nif­i­cant Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties by ter­ror­ist el­e­ments such as Is­lamic State has trag­i­cally fol­lowed. This deadly plague of re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion has spilled over into neigh­bor­ing coun­tries in­clud­ing Libya and Egypt.

In the vast “cra­dle of civ­i­liza­tion,” that ex­tra­or­di­nary his­toric re­gion fol­low­ing the Ti­gris River in Iraq, the con­tem­po­rary flow of events in­cludes the Is­lamic State (IS) horde that kills and im­pris­ons Chris­tians and the Yazidi mi­nor­ity. IS smashes and pil­lages the mu­se­ums and the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, and they in­still fear and in­tim­i­da­tion which seems to hark from an­other dark age.

To its credit, France, which has close and his­toric ties to Eastern Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties, spon­sored an open U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing to openly and frankly dis­cuss the vic­tims of at­tacks and abuses on eth­nic and re­li­gious grounds in the Mid­dle East. Need­ing such a de­bate in 2015 would seem as im­prob­a­ble in our smugly sat­is­fied world as it is nec­es­sary pre­cisely be­cause our smug­ness and po­lit­i­cal dys­func­tion has al­lowed the chaos to tran­spire in the first place.

French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius be­gan his state­ment can­didly: “Make no mis­take, In the Mid­dle East we are fac­ing a bar­baric, sys­tem­atic process of eth­nic and re­li­gious erad­i­ca­tion. Although the ma­jor­ity of the ji­hadi ter­ror­ists’ vic­tims are Mus­lim, non-Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties are pri­or­ity tar­gets. ”

Fabius added that IS ter­ror­ists, or Da’esh as they are known in the re­gion, have tar­geted Chris­tians, Yazidis and Kurds, “all are threat­ened with the same tri­an­gle of hor­ror: forced ment, or death.”

Louis Raphel Sako, the pa­tri­arch of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Baby­lon called the sit­u­a­tion for mi­nori­ties “cat­a­strophic,” adding “the so-called Arab Spring im­pacted neg­a­tively on us.”

Dur­ing the last cen­tury, the num­ber of Chris­tians in the Mid­dle East had fallen from 30 per­cent to a tiny 5 per­cent.

U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon warned, “Thou­sands of civil­ians are at the mercy of the ISIL (Is­lamic State in Iraq and the Le­vant) or Da’esh. Its fighters are sys­tem­at­i­cally killing eth­nic and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties, those who dis­agree with its warped in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lam, and any­one who op­poses its apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sion.”

Yet, Egypt’s Am­bas­sador Amr Ab­del­latif Aboulatta put the mat­ter suc­cinctly that Chris­tians were an in­te­gral part of the fab­ric of the Mid­dle East and of his coun­try.

Clearly

the

ex­ile, en­slave-

cur­rent car­nage in key Mid­dle Eastern coun­tries es­pe­cially Iraq, Syria and Libya may presage the near to­tal dis­ap­pear­ance of the an­cient Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties from the re­gion. Im­por­tantly the lat­est re­port from the U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights is stark; namely that ISIL may have com­mit­ted all three of the most se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional crimes: war crimes, crimes against hu­man­ity and geno­cide.

Aus­tria’s For­eign Min­is­ter Se­bas­tian Kurz added that the IS ac­tions must be named as war crimes and geno­cide and must not go un­pun­ished. He called for the Coun­cil to re­fer the sit­u­a­tion in Syria to the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC).

Am­bas­sador Bo­gus­law Winid of Poland put the cur­rent cri­sis into a larger his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, warn­ing that “The his­tory of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury teaches about the need to act in the face of sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ments to pre­vent even big­ger-scale atroc­i­ties.”

The Holy See del­e­gate Arch­bishop Bernardito Auza con­veyed Pope Bene­dict XVI’s sup­port for the con­cept of “re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect,” and Pope Fran­cis’ call for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to “do all that it can to stop and to pre­vent fur­ther sys­tem­atic vi­o­lence against eth­nic and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties.”

Though many high-level del­e­ga­tions from U.N. mem­ber states ad­dressed the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing at the for­eign min­is­ter level, the United States failed to send U.N. Am­bas­sador Sa­man­tha Power (Sec­re­tary Kerry was busy ne­go­ti­at­ing a nu­clear deal with Iran) or a high rank­ing mem­ber of the State Depart­ment. Why? Re­li­gious strife has a po­lit­i­cal com­po­nent; states had bet­ter find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion. John J. Met­zler is a United Na­tions cor­re­spon­dent cov­er­ing diplo­matic and de­fense is­sues. He is the au­thor of “Di­vided Dy­namism: the Diplo­macy of Sep­a­rated Na­tions: Ger­many, Korea, China” (2014).

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