ISIS brutality continues to intensify, the future of Christianity in the Middle East is at stake, and the refugee crisis could soon be exponentially worse, but President Obama refuses to do much of anything, according to one of the nation’s leading voices on human rights.
Former Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., is now a distinguished senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. He says despite all the talk at the United Nations this week and over the past couple of years, no one seems willing to label ISIS atrocities for what they really are.
“The first thing we have to do to focus attention on the region is to declare what is taking place to Christians, Yazidis, Shia and other religious minorities is genocide. It meets the Rafael Lemkin definition of genocide,” said Wolf.
Lemkin was a Polish-born Jew who escaped after Nazi Germany invaded in 1939. Five years later he coined the term “genocide” and defined it.
“It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group” wrote Lemkin in his 1944 book, “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.
Wolf is mystified and frustrated by the failure of the United States or other leading nations to use the term in connection to the barbarity of ISIS.
“For the world not to be calling it genocide is unbelievable. For President Obama not to be calling it genocide, for (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Samantha Power who wrote the classic book on genocide (is unbelievable). It is genocide,” said Wolf.
Wolf believes without quick action, ISIS will join the list of Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia as genocidal horrors we look back on and wish we had done something about much sooner. He says not doing what is takes to stop ISIS is even more inexcusable than the others on that list.
“All the other people that have done genocide have tried to hide it. ISIS is not hiding it. They are showing what’s going on,” said Wolf.
Beyond Obama’s failure to label ISIS horrors as genocide or mount a concerted effort to defeat it, Wolf says the president does the effort great harm by downplaying the motivations for ISIS murders, by referring to 21 beheaded Coptic Christians only as Egyptians or 148 slaughtered Kenyan Christians only as Kenyans.
But it goes even further. Wolf points to the Obama administration stopping the truth from coming out about what’s happening in ISIS-controlled areas.
“There were some Catholic nuns who wanted to come into the country and the administration denied their visa. We were with Sister Diana a couple of months ago. We wanted to bring her here so she could (tell what was happening). The administration initially denied her visa. There are some Catholic nuns who want to come over here for different reasons. The administration has denied their visas,” said Wolf, who says the administration lacks a coherent approach to defeat the group responsible for the murders of several Americans.
“The administration, quite frankly they’ve been silent. They really do not have a policy,” said Wolf.
He says the difference between the Obama response to ISIS and the George W. Bush response to another humanitarian crisis is stark.
“When (former Sen.) Sam Brownback and I went to Darfur, we came back, we put in a resolution. Congress got behind it. Colin Powell called it genocide in Darfur. President Bush called it genocide. This administration is doing almost nothing and the people there feel fundamentally abandoned,” said Wolf.
However, Obama’s inaction is not the only frustration for persecuted believers. Wolf says they also want to know where their fellow Christians are.
“Almost to a person, every person we met with, particularly the Christian community, felt abandoned by the West. The Yazidi community felt abandoned by the West. I had a couple people say, ‘Doesn’t the church in the West care about us?” said Wolf.
Wolf says the tide can be turned and he believes a declaration of genocide against ISIS is the trigger to a meaningful response.
“The administration and the Congress and the UN need to call what is taking place in that area genocide. By doing that, we will honor the victims but we will also begin to put in place a policy that deals with what’s taking place out there,” said Wolf.
As for the details of stopping ISIS, Wolf favors a multi-layered approach. He advocates an oil embargo to cut off the revenue stream for ISIS. He then favors direct aid to the Kurdish Peshmerga, rather than sending assistance through Baghdad where the Shia-led government only passes along a tiny fraction of materials to the Kurds. Wolf advocates for U.S. special forces to provide training to the Peshmerga and to the Ninevah Plains Protection Unit, a collaboration of Christians, Yazidis and others committed to protecting their homeland.
Wolf and others from the Wilberforce Initiative went to Iraq in January and weeks later issued a bleak report on the future of Iraqi believers.
He says things are only getting more desperate.
“It’s intensified. It’s much, much worse,” said Wolf.
Without intervention, Wolf says, the human toll will only swell and that means the refugee crisis hitting Europe will look like nothing compared to what’s coming. In addition, he says the human tide entering Europe presents a major national security challenge.
“There’s a real danger. I must say it. Some of the refugees that are going to come in are going to be ISIS people. There have even been reports that some of the people going into Europe are actually connected to ISIS,” said Wolf.
“It isn’t just Syrians. You’re getting people from Eritrea, from Afghanistan. Did you see what took place in that town in Afghanistan? The whole town was taken over by the Taliban. Unless ISIS is stopped, this thing is going to get so bad that Europe will not be able to withstand all the refugees coming,” said Wolf.
In another troubling twist, Wolf says Christians are rarely part of the refugee masses because they don’t feel safe among them.
“They are part of it but they are not part of the refugee camps, mainly because the Christians and Yazidis are fearful even when they’re in the UN camps. I won’t go into detail what they said but they are very, very fearful. You’re finding Christians and Yazidis generally going into individual homes. Many of the Christians are not going north. Many are coming into Lebanon,” said Wolf.
Wolf says the bottom line is that ISIS must be stopped.
“Call it genocide so we can mobilize the world to fight what’s taking place in the region. Otherwise, during out lifetime, we’re going to see the extinction of Christianity in the cradle of Christianity,” he said.