A little-noticed poll reveals that only one-third of Iraqis will even express concern about Christian persecution. If Christianity is to survive in Iraq, the U.S. government will have to end its double-standard of arming Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds but not the peaceful and victimized Christians.
The poll found that a mere 33% of Iraqis would even say they are concerned about Christian persecution and 67% are not concerned at all or only "somewhat concerned" about their misery. The survey found that this heartless attitude is pervasive in the region.
Christian persecution is the worst in Iraq, where the population has dropped from about 1 million in 2003 under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship to 200-500,000 today. Over 125,000 have fled in the past year. Iraq is now ranked as the third-worst country for Christians, surpassed only by North Korea and Somalia.
Christians are highly vulnerable in they represent only 0.8% of the Iraqi population, yet they have not resorted to terrorism, assembling vicious militias, or sectarian cleansing. They are among the most innocent; yet they are among the most persecuted.
The only surveyed country that cares less about Christian persecution is Iran. Less than one-fourth (24%) express concern about the treatment of Christians and other non-Muslim minorities in the region. More than three-fourths (76%) do not.
The United Nations says the oppression of Christians has reached "unprecedented" levels under "moderate" President Rouhani. American Pastor Saeed Abedini remains in prison after being arrested in September 2012 and sentenced to 8 years in January 2013.
The persecution in Iran is said to be a result of explosive growth in underground evangelical Christianity. The Operation World organization says Iran has the fastest growing Christian population with an annual increase of almost 20%. Iran is rated the 7th most hostile country for Christians.
A disappointing finding was the attitude of Jordan, where Christians account for only 2.2% of the population and the government is known for its moderation. Only 35% of Jordanians express concern about the persecution and 65% do not. Jordan ranks number 30 for its "moderate" level of persecution.
The friendliest country towards Christians that was surveyed is Lebanon, where 40.5% of the population is Christian. An estimated 81% are concerned about the persecution and 19% are not. However, the high percentage of Christians means that great hostility from the Muslim population exists. It means that 60% of non-Christians are unconcerned.
The second most sympathetic country is Egypt, where 10% of the population is Christian. Over three-fourths (76%) of Egyptians are concerned and 24% are not.
Egypt is ranked number 23 in the list of worst persecutors of Christians. The sympathy may be partially due to Egyptian President El-Sisi who is extremely friendly towards his country's Coptic minority. The president attended Christmas Eve mass at a church and appeared to tear up at the event, declaring, "We will love each other for real, so that people may see."
Only a slim majority in the United Arab Emirates seem to care about what's happening to the Christians. About 54% said they are concerned and 46% said they didn't. The UAE comes in 49th place on the list of the 50 most hostile countries to Christianity.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey had identical attitudes on the topic, an interesting coincidence considering that Christians can't even construct a church in Saudi Arabia and Turkey is hailed as a NATO ally. Only 53% of Saudis and Turks express concern about the persecution of Christians and other non-Muslim minorities and 47% do not. They are ranked 12th and 41st in terms of oppression of Christians.
The most unsettling find, by far, is about Iraq. Christians have a long history in Iraq. They engage the rest of the population and have done nothing to contribute to violence. The Iraqis cannot plead ignorance. They, perhaps more than any other Muslim population, know the hardships Christians are facing—and only one in three seem to care.
The depressing conclusion is that the Iraqi Christians are mostly abandoned. They've finally formed a self-defense force called the Nineveh Plains Protection Units. They've received a small amount of support of American civilians from two feuding groups: The American Mesopotamian Organization's Restore Nineveh Now project and Matthew VanDyke's Sons of Liberty International.
The Christians, unlike virtually every other segment of the Iraqi population, are not being armed or trained by any government.
The U.S. Congress' National Defense Authorization Act puts $715 million towards the Iraqi security forces and 25% goes to the Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni tribal forces. If the Iraqi government fails to meet certain benchmarks, 60% of the remaining 75% will go to the Kurds and Sunnis. The Christians get nothing.
The U.S. should be directly involved in supporting Christian self-defense forces and, if necessary, an autonomous Christian state within Iraq. Why are the Iraqi Shiites (including terrorists linked to Iran), Sunni tribesmen and Kurds deserving of protection but not Christians? When will the U.S. government stop discriminating against Iraqi Christians?
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.