The cause of religious liberty galvanizes Americans of faith, yet America’s foreign policy has ignored religion to the point of harming her interests and moderate allies in the Middle East.
“America is really, by virtue of its foreign policy, distanced from our natural allies,” Andrew Doran, one of the founders of the group In Defense of Christians, told TAS. “They’ve actually been marginalized over the last several years [by our] commitment to procedural democracy.”
Doran described meeting a Christian man in Lebanon who, having never visited America, asked why Americans do not act when Christians face persecution in the Middle East. Doran told him most Americans do not know that any Christians live in the Middle East.
“He was dumbfounded,” Doran said. “You can tell that any sense of solidarity with the broader Christian world is gone, and they suddenly feel very alone.”
Until now, advocacy for these Christians has come from “diaspora communities.” The Arab Christians who have emigrated to the United States keep in touch with relatives in their native countries and advocate for them in America. These groups have been quite sincere, if unsuccessful. Despite their efforts, Americans still don’t know they exist and America’s foreign policy has ignored their countrymen back home.
This vacuum of communication is where In Defense of Christians intends to operate. Its founders were inspired by a call to help Christians at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2012. They decided to unify the voice of Christian diaspora communities to help them reach the American people and their leaders.
Since the organization’s founding, the plight of Christians in the Middle East has become more dire, with events in Mosul being the most extreme example. Fortunately humanitarian groups, congressional leaders, and evangelical Christian groups in particular have begun to respond.
In Defense of Christians views the survival of Middle East Christians as an American national security interest. America’s foreign policy in the Arab nations has stressed building secular democratic institutions, which is at odds with the significant role religion plays in both Arab and American society.
“The forces that are eradicating the Christians in the Middle East are the same forces that bombed the World Trade Center on September 11,” Doran said. “Americans do not understand this crucial nexus.”
Evidence suggests al Qaeda terrorists do see this “crucial nexus”—in a video CNN captured in April 2014, one al Qaeda leader said, “The cross must be defeated, and America is the bearer of the cross.”
The Christians in the Middle East recognize this connection. Many of them have traditionally held leadership roles in politics and economics. They have been puzzled when American foreign policy—which until two decades ago was so intent on preserving “separation of church and state” when gathering data on the religious life of foreign nations—ignores them. Americans are intent on preserving religious freedom within their borders but do not demand that governments receiving American taxpayer money do the same.