A Muted Hallelujah for the New York Times Magazine

To further obscure historical realities, Griswold mischaracterizes the Armenian Genocide. She described this genocide -- which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenian Christians and thousands of Assyrian and Greek Christians between 1915 and 1922 -- as being “ waged by the Young Turks in the name of nationalism, not religion.”

The Young Turks' notion of what they wanted the modern state of Turkey to look like was informed by Muslim theology and jurisprudence regarding Christians. The Young Turks were brought up to view Christians as inferior to Muslims, and this played a role in justifying their destruction. Moreover, the techniques used to perpetrate the genocide were taken out of the jihadist playbook that ISIS is using today – beheadings, forcible conversions and the sale of women into sexual slavery. The people who did the killing were not intent on creating a Kemalist state, but were seeking to reestablish Muslim dominance over Christians in the Anatolian Peninsula. The Armenian Genocide and the murder of huge numbers of Greeks and Assyrians had a lot to do with religion. A lot.

The notion that Christianity thrived alongside Islam in the Middle East for the past 1,500 years is simply untenable to anyone who is familiar with the sources. Christians were terribly and regularly mistreated.

Griswold gets it wrong when she tries to address why the plight of Christians in the Middle East has not gotten the attention it deserves.

Griswold wants it both ways. On one hand, she claims that support for Christians in the Middle East is a purview of Evangelicals whose leaders have used the issue to whip up their base, somehow preventing the Obama administration from getting involved in the issue. On the other hand, she claims that pro-Israel evangelicals don’t support Eastern Christians because they, the Eastern Christians, tend to side with the Palestinians. She writes that “because support of Israel is central to the Christian Right -- Israel must be occupied by the Jews before Jesus can return -- this stance distances Eastern Christians from a powerful lobby that might otherwise champion their cause.”

Which is it? Have evangelicals come to the defense of Eastern Christians to such an extent that the Obama administration will not touch the issue, or have evangelicals abandoned Eastern Christians because of their alleged anti-Zionist proclivities?

The fact is evangelical Protestants have been at the forefront of the campaign to draw attention to the mistreatment of Christians in Muslim-majority environments. They are the primary supporters of groups such as the Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors and Samaritan’s Purse, all of which have drawn attention to the mistreatment of Eastern Christians while mainline church and secular human rights organizations remained silent.

My employer -- the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) -- organized two conferences about the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The first took place outside of Chicago in 2011 and the other took place outside of Boston in 2012. The vast majority of attendees at both of these conferences were evangelical Protestants who had come to hear Orthodox and Catholic Christians speak to them about the plight of their co-religionists in the Middle East.

At one of the conferences, an evangelical attendee asked, legitimately, “Where are the Catholics?” About the best I could do was to invoke the presence of Juliana Taimoorazy, founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, and myself. We were some of the only Catholics in the room.

Evangelical Christians have led the fight to protect Christians suffering under Muslim persecution and have been for years. More rigorous reporting on Griswold’s part would have revealed that fact.

 

Dexter Van Zile is Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).