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While we were celebrating the birth of Christianity

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Today, ISIS and powerful elements within the Islamic world are deliberately and consciously exterminating the Christians of the Middle East -- and we know about it!

Kevin and Marilyn

A few days before Christmas, we received a card from our Cardinal Sean. On the front was a sketch of the nativity scene with the Christ Child in a crib with an odd looking placard nailed to the top of the manger. It was an Arabic work. Inside the card, the letter was repeated, followed by these chilling words: "Christians, followers of the Prince of Peace, are being persecuted by Islamic State militants in numerous countries. In Mosul, these militants mark Christian property with the Arabic letter for 'N,' which is used to designate a home as Nazarene, meaning a followers of Jesus Christ, and issues an ultimatum: leave, convert, pay a fine, or face death. Please pray for persecuted Christians throughout the word and may the blessings of the Christ child and His Holy Mother bring peace to all."

The same day that the cardinal's moving card arrived, two Jewish Rabbis -- Abraham Cooper and Yitzchak Adlerstein of the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- wrote a column entitled "Mideast Christians Deserve U.S. Refuge." They graphically described how Christians are being hunted door-to-door. Once found, they are given just three choices: convert, heavy taxes or execution. Many flee their homes in the dead of night, but they are nowhere welcome.

While many of the Mideast's Muslims have also been displaced, they often flock to Turkey and Jordan, where they are welcomed, or they find safety in refugee camps run by the U.N, and other agencies. Not so Christian refugees. Finding the camps unsafe, they go unregistered for immigration relief and possible transfer out of the region. Even in the camps, Christians are targeted for violence. In these poorly supervised camps, they are vulnerable, outnumbered and intensely hated -- not simply by ISIS, but neighbors with whom they once lived in peace. Thus, they wander homeless as outcasts in their own historic homeland.

This running tragedy is not confined to Syria and Iraq, where Christians are publically tortured, raped and even crucified. The rabbis reported on an incident that occurred last April when a boatload of Christians and Muslims left the coast of today's chaotic Libya for Italy. In an incident still under investigation, 12 Christians were thrown overboard and drowned by the majority Muslims.

As the fog of World War II cleared, Americans gradually became aware of the Nazis' deliberate and conscious effort to exterminate the Jews of Europe. We didn't know, or we knew very little. Today, ISIS and powerful elements within the Islamic world are deliberately and consciously exterminating the Christians of the Middle East -- and we know about it!

Our world leaders know about it, too. Recently Pope Francis said, "Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end."

These besieged Christians must be saved. Although it has done little, our State Department announced that we will take in 100,000 Middle East refugees. There are more than 300 agencies ready to help: 215 are Catholic or Christian affiliated agencies. The president has acknowledged that, "We must step up and do our part" in the face of this unfolding calamity. However, as is often the case with this president, the views and sensibilities of Catholics count for little.

Witness the White House's sustained assaults on religious freedom as Catholic charities, colleges and other institutions are forced to comply with employer mandates related to abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraceptive health care coverages. All these dicta are, of course, directly contrary to Church doctrine and long standing practices in our country.

Still, in the face of the clear evidence that Middle East Christians are the most hunted and exposed group, and therefore the group most in need of America's rescue, the president has forbidden it. In response to the overwhelming evidence that Christians are being frozen in place and systematically persecuted, tortured and beheaded, he has called pleas from American leaders, religious and non-religious, to target relief to Christians as "shameful."

Our president claims that a humanitarian effort focused on the most vulnerable is "not American." The fact that many Jewish Americans give thanks for our country's efforts to rescue their parents and grandparents from the exterminating hands of the Nazis is ignored.

Catholics and fellow Christians must insist that our government intervene to stop this religion-focused cleansing from the biblical heartlands, from the cradle of Christianity. And we must pray for those desperate mothers, fathers and children.


Kevin and Marilyn Ryan, editors of "Why I'm Still a Catholic," worship at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, Mass.

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