In the span of 48 hours, we have witnessed the Trump administration plot out a course that will lead to the eradication of Christians in the Middle East.
On Wednesday afternoon, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley went before the United Natioins with pictures of children killed in a chemical weapons attack in the Idlib province of western Syria. Blaming the ruling government, and rehearsing even shabbier versions of the loose facts and sob stories that led up to the Iraq War in 2003, Haley laid down the propaganda necessary for intervention.
Later that day, appearing alongside the king of Jordan, President Donald Trump — the man who ran for president saying Syrian intervention would lead to World War III — told the world he had come to see the value of removing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Said President Trump: "I don't have to have one specific way, and if the world changes, I go the same way....I will tell you, it’s already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."
On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed the world that the United States would pursue a program for regime change in Syria. And Thursday night, the United States bombed the al Shayrat airfield, which the American government is claiming is the source of the chemical weapons attack.
Syrian officials have denied the government was behind the attack, and experts have suggested that it was Islamist rebels who undertook the assault. The logic of American allegations is also highly questionable. In the past year, the Syrian government had make significant gains against its Islamist foes by using conventional weapons. Why would Assad blow his good will by attacking a small target of no military importance?
The Shayrat airfield had been used by the government to attack Islamist forces aiming at the overthrow of the Syrian state. Not wasting any time, ISIS took advantage of the U.S. bombing and attacked a Syrian Arab Army base 20 miles from the airfield early Friday. Fifteen years after 9/11, the American military is now in a symbiotic relationship with al Qaeda.
If military operations continue in the future, Thursday will mark the beginning of the elimination of a Christian presence in the Middle East. America's attempt to once again remove a dictator not to its liking will doom some of the oldest Christian communities on the planet.
For all the atrocities committed by his government in wartime, and all the invective hurled against him, Assad has been a friend to Christians. He has protected the civil and religious rights of Christians against the assault of Islamists. He has attended festivities with Christians at times when even the Vatican seemed to ignore them. And he has kept a friendly relationship with patriarchs of Orthodox churches. If Assad is evil, he may still be the least evil major leader in the region.
In the short term, every hole the United States punctures in the Syrian military will be filled by ISIS, and serve as an opportunity for atrocities against Christians.
In the medium term, if the United States succeeds in toppling Assad, Syria will most likely become a failed state. And when this happens, the nation's centuries-old Christian population will share the fate of their coreligionists to the East. In 2003 there were about 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Thirteen years later there were about 275,000. Some of them fled, some of them were murdered, some are being murdered still — now by the Islamic State, which burns, mutilates and crucifies them. There's no reason to believe the trend — a loss of 85 percent of their population in 13 years — will not continue in Iraq and extend into "liberated" Syria.
Even if by some miracle Syria does not end up a cauldron of anarchic bloodshed, there is no getting around the fact that Muslim states are ruled by Muslims. U.S. officials are harping once again on the need to bring democracy to the Middle East, but majority rule in those nations will put men in power who have no desire or reason to protect Christian rights. This includes states that are — at least for the region — generally well functioning. It was only a U.S.-backed military coup that kept the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood out of power in Egypt and mitigated the already severe persecution of Christians in that nation. And in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan, who survived a coup against him last June, has looked the other way to increasing Christian persecution while his ruling party consolidates power. The man who denies the 1915 genocide of Armenian Christians at the hands of the Turks may soon be in a position to deny a genocide of his own making.
Regardless of the particular leader or country, the future for Christians in the Middle East is bleak. Unlike liberal democracy, Islamism has a future as a poltical force. As perverse as it is, Islam offers to its practitioners an image of God. The modern West offers nothing but death. The West's adulation of usury, abortion and Mammon, along with a parade of Western leaders that has formed to praise the illegal and amoral attack, show that Christians in the Middle East have no friends left in the First World.
At the same time, Western democracies are in their death throes, unable to defend their borders or their populations. The Trump administration, one of the last defenses against the great Western death wish, is DOA. Trump is too weak to follow the commonsense platform that got him elected, and Erdogan's program of Muslim demographic replacement is now free to proceed in the United States as it has in Europe.
Syrian Christians who flee their ruined homeland may soon be re-acquauinted with Islamists they thought they left behind, this time in Dearborn, Michigan and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Where the pagan West has not spread its abhorrent culture and incoherent politics, it has scorched the earth with its bombs.
We are assured by Our Lord that His Church will always be on the earth, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her. But as Fr. John Hardon, S.J. tells us, we have no assurance that the Church will be in any particular region or country when He returns. The region whose dirt Christ once walked, spat and bled on may have no Christian to greet Him on His return.
The author's opinions are his own and don't necessarily reflect the views of Church Militant.
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