By Jason Scott Jones and Juliana Taimoorazy
Is it cold enough for you yet? Neither of us has been inclined to complain about the weather – at least since we read the tiny headline, carried by a little-known Kurdistani news service, announcing the deaths of 17 children in Iraqi refugee camps this winter. Those children were victims of Islamic ethnic cleansing that drove them from the safety of their homes. It's unclear from news reports how many of the victims were Assyrian Christians, or members of other hunted minorities such as the Yazidi.
Humans were never very good at empathy. The "crooked timber" of which we are made inclines us first to love those who look like us. Conversely, we treat those who look, dress, or act differently than us as less than human. One of the most memorably hideous instances of this was the treatment of Ota Benga, a pygmy of the Mbuti tribe who in 1906 was exhibited for months in a cage at New York's Bronx Zoo. We now look back with horror at our ancestors for tossing tiny peanuts through the bars – but really, should we? Are people today really so much more advanced?
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If we are indeed advanced, then one might expect that every outrage against human rights around the world would touch us, at least a little. One would think that we wouldn't discriminate when we reacted to news of cruelties, oppressions and religious persecution. In a perfect world, Western Christians would be just as appalled at the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar as they were at the sickening outrage we recently witnessed in Paris. But let's not ask for perfection. Let's not demand the best and most consistent concern for every human being qua human being, which ought to pervade our hearts. Here's a less stringent test, applied to a much narrower subset: Western Christians concerned about Islamist terror. That narrows things down. Are these Western Christians really concerned for all victims, even for all those innocent Christians who have suffered so much because of the repeated Islamist attacks?
When we read of those freezing children, do they touch our hearts in quite the same way as the tales of those butchered cartoonists? Probably not. For one thing, they are foreign – much more foreign to us than those murdered Frenchmen. Few Americans have ever taken the time to watch any Iraqi Christian persecution films, even with subtitles. The version of Christianity practiced in Iraq would look distinctly alien to most American churchgoers. The Christians of Iraq, if they came to America, would likely be mistaken for Muslims. Therefore, empathy fades, and as we relegate this new horror, we force these 17 dead children to belong to the part of our brain reserved for "Awful things that happen in godforsaken places in faraway lands."
There are millions more people around the world victimized by Islamic supremacy and intolerance who fall into the very same memory hole. Nigeria has seen some 13,000 victims of a Muslim group called Boko Haram ("Education is forbidden"), which has taken to using little girls as suicide bombers. Since 2010, Islamic groups have targeted "non-believers" in the United States of America, Russia, Pakistan, India, Sweden, Germany, China, Iraq, Thailand, Bulgaria, Libya, Turkey, Great Britain, Kenya, Belgium, Syria, Australia, Canada, Somalia and Cameroon.
It's true that it would be exhausting, and might even burn us out, to think of all this horror all the time. That's quite a long enemy list racked up by the "religion of peace." However, it is not too much to ask that the West keep each new outrage in perspective – and see each attack on any human being, especially those driven by religious hatred and intolerance, as an attack on the entire human race.
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