To learn what it’s like for a civilization to die, read today’s detailed (if belated) New York Times account of Romel Hawal, 48, the last Christian man in a formerly Christian town in Anbar Province, Iraq. According to the Times:
Mr. Hawal said that his life had become culturally identical to those of his neighbors. At his construction materials shop he hangs a sign that says Allahu Akbar, or God is great, and the customers know him as Abu Yousif (father of Yousif) the Christian. The family prays at home, he said, but the rituals are incomplete without a priest. The hardest part, he said, is raising his son here. ‘Whenever I look at him my heart breaks,’ Mr. Hawal said. ‘He is my closest friend. I just want him to live a normal life where he can practice the Christian traditions.’
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has described what is happening to Christians in the Middle East as “religious cleansing,” and several European foreign ministers are now debating foreign policy measures to counter it.
Meanwhile, President Obama and Secretary Clinton continue to treat each church bombing and murder in Iraq and Egypt as an isolated event by lone extremists, and offer only their condolences with each new atrocity.
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.