Syria: It's Time to Pray
Today, Turkey is claiming to have killed more than 100 Kurdish fighters in Northeast Syria, and reports of civilian casualties continue to surface. The streets of some towns on the Turkish-Syrian border are chaotic as people continue to flee indiscriminate shelling from Turkish forces. Estimates already suggest that more than 60,000 people displaced in Northeast Syria within the last 24 hours. All of this is just days after President Trump gave the order for U.S. troops to withdraw from the immediate area.
For years, Family Research Council has met with and heard from Syrian Christians and Kurds trying to cultivate religious freedom in their country. They were doing the hard work; they only wanted our support. Creating conditions for religious freedom in the Middle East is a tall order, but they were really getting it done. They even had churches with Muslim converts to Christianity operating openly and freely. Meanwhile, the religious freedom elements of their story got far too little attention in the press and elsewhere.
Last winter, we urged President Trump to alter course and leave security forces in Northeast Syria when it looked like we were going to withdraw. When he did so, we thanked him for this wise policy move, and continued to highlight religious freedom in Northeast Syria. This past summer, we hosted an event focused on religious freedom in Northeast Syria around the time of the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The Christians and others in Northeast Syria needed a voice, and far too few were giving them one.
Then, this past weekend, President Trump announced his plan to withdraw U.S. forces from sections of Northeast Syria. On Wednesday, this region came under attack by Turkey and saw its first casualties — reportedly including Christians. CBN’s Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell, appearing with me on Washington Watch Wednesday night, recalled when the “Turkish army, along with jihadist forces, came in and they ethnically cleansed” parts of Northern Syria last year. “They killed Christians, burned churches. They hunted down Muslim background believers who had converted to Christ.” This might happen again. As Chris tells us, “they are fearing a genocide right now.”
At the same time, according to Chris, “the head of the Turkish religious affairs is asking for the mosques of Turkey to pray [for] conquest… . So this is something that they see as a jihad against the unbelievers. And that would include Christians, Yazidis, the Kurds, all the people of northeast Syria.”
As if this were not enough, Turkey is blackmailing Europe and the United Stated by threatening to “release” refugees into our countries if its demands are not met. This is the behavior of a schoolyard bully, and nobody likes a schoolyard bully.
Turkish President Erdogan has already broken promises he made to Trump about the incursion. Chris Mitchell noted that Turkey has been bombing Christian villages. “I know that the statement by the White House said, you know, they were going to hold Turkey to protecting civilians, religious minorities, including Christians. But already some of the casualties have been Christians.” Clearly, Turkey has now crossed the line.
At this point, it would be quite proper for President Trump to respond by halting the withdrawal of forces, and taking economic action against Turkey — which he said he would do if Erdogan went too far. Turkey has violated President Trump’s own standard for the incursion, and action against Turkey would be consistent with what the president has said from the beginning.
We ask the president to hear our plea. At the same time, we need to pray.
We need to rally in prayer for the Christians and other peace-loving people of Northeast Syria — including the Kurds, Yezidis, and others. Let us pray for their safety, security, and freedom. Let us also pray they would be guarded from those who would seek to conquer them and take all those things away. As Psalm 33 tells us, let us look to the Lord alone for their protection.
Proverbs 21:1 tells us: “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.” Let us also pray that the Lord gives President Trump wisdom to make the right decisions.
Originally published here.
U.S. to China: Free Muslims from Prison Camps to Trade with America
For a profile in courage, consider a very significant move by the Trump administration this week in defense of Muslims. Just days before taking up new trade talks with China, the administration announced a dramatic stand in defense of up to 2 million Chinese Muslims in concentration camps and against companies that are using their technology to spy on the Chinese in their daily lives. Not that I expect the media to give the president and his administration points for defending the religious liberty of people around the world, but when you consider that the NBA couldn’t find the character to support one pro-democracy tweet when China threatened loss of income, the move is all the more striking.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week that visa restrictions had been placed on Chinese diplomats alleged to have been involved in human rights violations against the Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region. The officials “are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention and abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups,” he said. But restricting travel wasn’t the administration’s only move. The U.S. also blacklisted 28 Chinese companies who are believed to be involved in “surveillance and detention of minority groups,” meaning that they cannot do business in the U.S. without a special waiver from the Commerce Department.
The two million-plus Muslims “are sent to re-education camps to learn how to be, quote unquote, more Chinese,” said Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, who serves on the Finance Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and joined me on Wednesday’s Washington Watch.
“They’re under heavy control. They’re being managed in an area and restricted to travel. This is something we as Americans would never allow and shouldn’t ever allow,” he said.
Senator Lankford could not recall any previous administration putting human rights so front and center in similar negotiations, adding: “It is entirely appropriate to be able to bring in human rights, and I’m grateful that they haven’t just said it’s about the dollar, but they’ve also said it’s about the value of each individual life and our economy. And so I don’t know what time it has been addressed before, but I’m very grateful it is now.”
China’s track record in business and in its treatment of people in country is having an unintended impact on its economy.
With China’s known practice of stealing intellectual property, companies are leaving China in droves heading to other countries in the Pacific Rim, especially Vietnam, where similar human rights problems can occur.
Lankford agreed, “They’re still struggling with the issue of human rights, religious freedom and a particular course, (as) one of five communist countries remaining. But I think as we continue in those discussions with countries like Vietnam, we can help them improve. But we’ve got to be willing to have those hard conversations.”
Because of the courage of the Trump administration, human rights are being advanced as well as a financial agenda.
Lankford observed: “We as Americans have economic goals. But we also have humanity goals where we believe in the basic freedom of individuals to be able to not only live free, but to be able to practice their faith freely. And so it isn’t it is not just a good moment. It is the best moment to be able to get their attention and to say bring in the issue of human rights while we’re also talking about economic issues.”
Let’s be praying for the Trump administration as the trade talks begin, especially as they work to highlight human rights of all people of faith and not just the almighty dollar.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.