EDITORIAL: Christian persecution keeps getting worse
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Violence against Christians, including children, is on the rise in Pakistan and other areas of the Middle East and Northern Africa. (AP photo)

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When President Donald Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network in January he would give Middle East Christians priority refugee status, he was sharply criticized for religious favoritism and prejudice. Even a few high-profile American Christian leaders questioned his judgment.

Trump's executive order on refugees did not mention Christians, but referenced religious "minorities." That means mostly Christians, Shi'a Muslims and Yazidis.

A recent report by Open Door USA, a nonprofit research firm, identifies 2016 as the "worst year" for worldwide Christian persecution since the organization began monitoring human atrocities 25 years ago.

"Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith," the report stated.

Open Doors documents evidence that says about 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith last year. More than 200,000 experienced religiously motivated violence or persecution.

An earlier report by the Italy-based Center for Studies on New Religions also estimated 90,000 Christians were murdered for faith around the world in 2016. Study author Massimo Introvigne called Christians "the most persecuted religious group in the world."

A year ago March 14, Congress passed House Resolution 75 by a unanimous 393-0 vote. The resolution recognizes as "genocide" the persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities by ISIS.

A week later, then-Secretary of State John Kerry said "Daesh" (ISIS) "is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions."

This week, Pope Francis released a video asking for prayers for an end to Christian persecution. The pope said Christians are "killed, burned alive, throats slit, and beheaded with barbarous blades amid cowardly silence."

The Open Doors report found North Korea tops the list as the most dangerous places for Christians. Somalia comes in second, followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea and Yemen.

The irrefutable evidence of Christian persecution, mostly at the hands of Muslims, led to outrage last year when data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center revealed only 0.5 percent of 12,587 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States in 2016 were Christian - a total of 68. Sunni Muslims comprised 98.2 percent and Shi'a Muslims totaled only 20, or 0.15 percent.

Christians, Yazidis and Shi'a Muslims are victims of what the Obama administration identified as a widespread religious genocide of religious minorities throughout much of the Middle East and Northern Africa by Isis and other Sunni Muslim extremists.

Yes, we should avoid aimless Islamophobia. Meanwhile, our refugee practice should focus on defending the targets of a violent, rogue Sunni regime.

We don't begin to have the answers to this human rights crisis. We only know Americans should not sit back in what the pope calls "cowardly silence," shrouded in religiously neutral political correctness.

The gazette Editorial Board

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