According to President Donald Trump, Christians in the Middle East are being treated in a manner that is "beyond disgraceful"; Christianity is being "treated horribly and very unfairly, and it's criminal."
He said this during his August 13 news conference, in response to the question, "How does the accord today between Israel and the UAE help struggling and persecuted Christians in the Middle East?"
Below is the president's response in full:
Well, I think it's going to. I think it's a big start. And you're right about that: Christians have been persecuted by some countries in particular in the Middle East. And I think this is a big start. It's going to be a very strong start, very powerful start, and it's something that I will tell you — I've told David, I've told every one of our negotiators: If you look at the way Christians have been treated in some countries, it's — it's beyond disgraceful. It's — if I — if I had information and if I had absolute proof — some of the stories that we've heard, which are not easy, which is not easy to get — I would go in and do a number to those countries like you wouldn't believe. What they do to Christians in the Middle East — and it's — it's disgraceful. It's disgraceful. You're right. It's a very big part of the overall negotiation. And as countries come in — for instance, UAE has agreed very strongly to represent us; I think they will very well with respect to Christianity, because in the Middle East, it's not treated well. It's not treated well at all. It's treated horribly and very unfairly, and it's criminal what's happened — and that's for many, many years. I think it's a great question and very un- — it's a very unfair situation.
... [J]ust by acknowledging—to say nothing of vocally condemning—the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Trump is helping create awareness where there was none.
This is especially the case when one compares Trump's words with those of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Although the latter was president during the absolute worst time for Christians in the Middle East—thanks to ISIS, which came to power under Obama's tenure—he never acknowledged it. For Obama, the abuse and slaughter of Christians and the bombing and burning of their churches was—as it still is for the "mainstream media"—a reflection of "sectarian strife" that has nothing to do with religion (but rather poverty, inequality, poor education, and all the other secularly satisfying pretexts).
During, for example, the 2011 Maspero Massacre—when the Egyptian government slaughtered and ran over with tanks dozens of Christians for protesting the burnings and closures of their churches—all that Obama could bring himself to do was call "for restraint on all sides"—as if Egypt's beleaguered Christian minority needed to "restrain" itself against the nation's armed and aggressive military.
Trump is to be credited for acknowledging the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
The Obama administration further tried to suppress data concerning the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and regularly discriminated against Christian minorities, often in favor of Muslims. Indeed, for at least one former Nigerian official, the current genocide of Christians in Nigeria finds its source in "the evil called Barack Obama."
It is for all these reasons and more that Trump is to be credited for speaking honestly about the plight of Christians in the Middle East. As president of the United States, his words go far and wide, and are heard by even the leaders of the worst offenders. It is for them to decide whether Trump is bluffing or not about wanting to "go in and do a number" on them "like you wouldn't believe."
Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum.