Christian refugees require extra protection

Ivan Grindlay fears the world is ignoring the plight of Syrian and Iraqi Christians.

The devastation of the Syrian ''killing fields'' continues, showing no sign of subsiding.

It is difficult to understand the complexities of this four-year civil war, given the entrenched attitudes of Islam.

While Western-backed rebels seek the downfall of the Assad Government, the IS scourge rages and Vladimir Putin flexes his muscles in support of Bashar al-Assad.

As desperate refugees scramble westward to find a safe haven in Europe, their presence will undoubtedly bring irretrievable social change.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo (International Director of Barnabas Fund) has highlighted the problem of Christian refugees in Germany enduring persecution from Muslim refugees.

''... Christians must be treated as a vulnerable minority. Christians refugees fleeing the Middle East violence are being targeted precisely because of their faith. This means that even when they are out of the geographical danger zone, they remain at risk because of their Christian identity''.

In Germany, the deputy head of the Police Union, Jorg Radek, has urged authorities to provide separate housing for Christian refugees in the country, after clashes with Muslim refugees left 14 wounded onSeptember 27. In a second outbreak at the Kassel-Calden temporary migrant shelter, almost 400 refugees were involved.

But is anyone listening?

Christians escaping Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria seldom go to the main refugee camps because it is too dangerous for them there.

They are easily identified, marginalised, discriminated against, harassed, abused and are at serious risk of violence in these Muslim-majority shelters.

Dr Sookhdeo says, ''Western countries in the process of receiving hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees must understand that vulnerable Christians are being overlooked in rescue programmes that take only those in camps to safety. Fully aware of the victimisation that is likely to await them in refugee camps, Iraqi and Syrian Christians seek shelter elsewhere.

''Barnabas Fund is appealing to governments to make special effort to look beyond the camps to find marginalised Christians wherever they are''.

Should NZ offer to help?

A coalition of UK faith groups from 14 organisations has issued a statement in the Sunday Telegraph accusing the US and UK governments of ignoring the plight of Christians by effectively failing to discriminate positively in their favour.

The coalition is backing attempts to evacuate Christians from Syria through ''Operation Safe Havens'', a project of Barnabas Fund.

It has succeeded in smuggling 42 Christian families out of Damascus to Poland via Beirut, but is appealing to Western governments to airlift more out of the country. Families are offering to receive them.

In the US, Government representatives introduced a bipartisan resolution on September 10 appealing for the targeted killing of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria to be labelled ''genocide''.

The co-chairs of ''the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus'' said, ''... the international community must confront the scandalous silence about their plight''.

It is believed more than 100,000 Christians are trapped in Iraqi Kurdistan, and thousands more in Jordan, Lebanon, Greece and Turkey.

While no-one condones the brutality of Mr Assad, perhaps only he knows what must be done to maintain order in the region.

Since ''the Spring Offensive'', it seems only dictators understand rebel mentality and opposing Muslim factions.

Let us not forget the Assad regime provided shelter and relative safety for 2.5 million Iraqi Christian refugees following Saddam Hussein's demise, and look at Iraq now.

This dire situation of minority groups is caused by ''dhimma'', a contract demanded of Christians and Jews in an Islamic context.

The irony is that it means ''protected''.

It allows them to live in a Muslim community and keep their faith, provided they adhere to various demeaning regulations.

Considered inferior to Muslims, dhimmi are forced to live with second-class status, subjected to humiliating restrictions and forced to pay jizya tax.

It is a tax of tribute that the Quran commands be paid ''with willing submission and while feeling themselves subdued'' (Q 9:29).

A total of 260 Christians were kidnapped on August 6 when IS jihadists captured the town of Qaryatain in Syria, and hunted down the Christian population.

Dozens were taken to Raqqa and, on September 2, were given 48 hours to decide to convert to Islam, pay jizya tax or leave.

Is this the holocaust repeating itself?

In 1943, Jan Karski, a member of the Polish underground, was the first to reach the US after having witnessed the Warsaw ghetto and a Nazi concentration camp.

He sought to convince President Franklin Roosevelt and a Supreme Court Judge, Felix Frankfurter, that Judaism was being systematically wiped out.

Justice Frankfurter told Mr Karski he could not believe it because the horror was unfathomable.

A remarkably similar situation is playing out right now as Christians are murdered in the Middle East.

Is there anyone with an ear to hear, and a heart to act?

• Ivan Grindlay is an elder at Caversham Community Church.

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