CHARLOTTE, NC, July 15, 2014 – Under normal circumstances the subject of Christian persecution in the Middle East might be a topic of major concern. The times are not normal, however, and haven’t been for quite a while.
So when President Obama met with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in March, the subject of religious freedom within the kingdom was never mentioned. Furthermore, despite a letter from 70 members of Congress to approach the topic, it was completely ignored by both the president and the media.
Given the current state of affairs in the world now, as well as then, the reasons are relatively easy to understand since there were, and are, considerably more immediate and dire issues to address both at home and abroad.
On the other hand, Christians are a primary target in many Muslim countries where stories of daily death and destruction go largely unreported. The question therefore becomes why does the U.S. either ignore, downplay or deny the plight of Christian attacks around the world?
In that regard, it would have been entirely appropriate for Barack Obama to broach the subjects of human rights and religious freedom with King Abdullah since Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, and since there is not a single non-Muslim house of worship anywhere in the entire country. Saudi Arabia is considered among the most restrictive countries in the world in terms of religious freedom.
Why should any of this matter in the larger scheme of global relations? Because Saudi Arabia is a country that thrives upon utilizing the talents of foreign workers who live within its borders.
Obama has openly stated that a major objective of American foreign policy is to promote religious freedom. Therefore, his face to face encounter with the Saudi king would have been an ideal opportunity to make his position known.
Religious groups of any denomination other than Islam frequently meet in secret in order to worship in the Saudi kingdom. In doing so they run the risk of being raided by the “Mutaween,” otherwise known as the Saudi religious police.
Some Westerners who live within the security of major Saudi compounds such as that of Saudi Aramco, the national petroleum and natural gas company based in Dhahran, celebrate religious holidays and decorate for seasonal Christian events without interference. In such cases, the government looks the other way in order to protect its 10-trillion dollar oil business.
Once outside the gates however, all bets are off and woe be to the offender with any other religious ideal than Islam to let it be known. It is even forbidden to take a photograph of a mosque without risking the penalty of arrest.
But the real issue for Americans is just another example of Obama’s unending list of actions that create the image that he is disengaged from his presidential duties.
Human rights has long been a major issue for the United States and the West, but, like so many aspects of the current administration, words and deeds are not synonymous. The lack of attention to international human rights issues and religious freedoms are not only on the administration’s back burner, but also create uneasy impressions that the president is an Islamic sympathizer.
Since March of this year, no less than 11 Islamic nations including Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhastan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey and Uganda have been responsible for major attacks on Christian churches or acts of violence against Christian freedoms including murder, rape, apostasy, blasphemy, dhimmitude and proselytism.
International tensions have certainly increased significantly since the early months of 2014.
It is understandable that amid all the turmoil embracing the planet on any given day that certain issues must be forced to play a lesser role than others.
Even so, Christians in particular, and other religions in general, have a right to expect more from their leaders than total indifference to their struggles for existence.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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