The inaugural summit meeting of the association known as “In Defense of Christians,” in Washington, D.C., on 9 Sept., received rather scant coverage in the secular media. Its occurrence, however, was historic. As Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches, observed in his address, Christians everywhere need to halt the “widespread silence” that is enveloping the Middle East in the face of onslaughts against the religious rights of Christians and other minorities. Specifying some of the most serious injustices seen in places like Syria and Iraq, he pointed to the barbaric indoctrination of children of about 10 years old, forced to sing out against the presumed enemies and to carry weapons at an age when they should be able to play and go to primary school with their peers; and also the tragedy of teenaged girls taken from refugee camps and sent as “goods” to various countries.
What is really happening, the Cardinal explained, is an attempt to implement the “theory of the clash of civilizations,” or the “war between religions,” a “foreign” Christian culture as opposed to “a native Islamic, Arabic culture.” (L’Osservatore Romano, 12 Sept.) Yet in Syria and Iraq, a Christian presence has been alive for two millennia, whereas a Muslim climate did not develop until six centuries of the first millennium had passed. Moreover, a Jewish presence, which obviously predated Christianity, remains even now. To view the Arab culture as entirely Muslim, he added, distorts reality. Most “Islamic believers do not belong to the Arab culture,” he went on, and in textbooks, the arrival of Aristotelianism in the West, “thanks to the mediation of Arab and Islamic philosophy, is often mentioned but nothing is said of the preceding, indispensable work done by Syriac-speaking Christian monks” who translated the documents of Grecian thought into Arabic. (Ibid.)
The violations of conscience that have characterized ISIS, or the so-called Islamic State, in its barbaric efforts to destroy human freedoms is, of course, thoroughly evil. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington lent emphasis to Cardinal Sandri’s remarks by insisting that we all be “active participants” in safeguarding the inherent rights of every human being. As Princeton University’s Professor Robert George stated at the meeting, “we must stand for all the victims of religious persecution.”
Every kind of progress is retarded if and when the dignity of each human being is trampled upon.