Colorado priest Andre Mahanna is raising awareness about genocide of Christians, as he visits Washington with a large group of Colorado Trump supporters remarkably diverse in its ethnic, religious and racial composition.
Rev Luis Leon greets President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania as they arrive for a church service at St. Johnâs Episcopal Church across from the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, on Donald Trump's inauguration day. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The pastor of St. Rafka's Maronite Catholic Church in Lakewood, Father Mahanna communicated with Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Colorado Springs and Denver before and after giving invocations at presidential campaign rallies. In Washington, he made an appearance on international television Thursday, live from the Washington studios of EWTN. He socialized with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity at a hotel bar Wednesday. Media appearances are lined up for weeks to come.
His message should be a wake-up call for Americans who turn a blind eye to religious persecution overseas.
"Destruction of the Christian Middle East is the gate to destroy the United States of America," Mahanna said, as quoted in the National Catholic Register.
A report prepared for Florida's Ave Maria School of Law explains Christians are run from their homes, "tortured, raped, trafficked, kidnapped and brutally killed" for their religion in what has become "a national security threat" to the United States. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity reports 90,000 Christians have been killed for their beliefs each year for the past decade.
Mahanna grew up in Lebanon, as a Catholic in a culture hostile to Christianity. He and his family survived persecution and war by living in caves, moving from one to another. During bombings, he and other children were told to climb deep into caves and stop descending only when oxygen was so scarce their candles began to dim.
He believes random attacks in the United States, motivated by religion, will only increase after Islamic extremists have banished Christians from Syria, Iraq and North Africa.
Roaming Washington, a city full of working immigrants and refugees from all over the world, Mahanna takes his message to anyone he can find who might make a difference - whether a member of Congress or a cab driver. Fluent in seven languages, communication is never a barrier.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, is happy to see the pastor delivering the message.
"It is outrageous what we are allowing to happen in the Middle East," Lamborn told the Register. "We have no measures in place to give Christians relief through immigration and resettlement in the U.S. There is no effort being made to contact minorities in refugee camps. Someone like Father Andre, with a personal connection, is absolutely someone the Trump administration should rely on for advice."
Patrick Davis, a Colorado Springs-based member of the Trump transition team, saw Mahanna make a connection with Trump on the campaign trail. Davis said the Trump administration plans to make a priority of addressing religious persecution, domestically and worldwide.
Mahanna implores the incoming administration to create a special envoy for religious minorities in troubled regions of the Middle East and North Africa. He believes this could help shift a foreign policy that only helps Christians try to escape persecution, at best. He would advise an emphasis on helping Christians remain in a region that's home to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
"I think it's a message he'll be able to get to the Trump administration, including officials involved in foreign affairs and at the State Department," Davis said. "There is a serious effort to make religious liberty a priority in the Trump administration, domestically and abroad, and Father Andre could contribute to that."
"Under the Obama administration particularly, there seems to be a reverse prejudice against the Christian minority in the Middle East," said John Klink, a former special adviser to the George W. Bush administration on United Nations delegations as well as a Holy See delegate to numerous U.N. meetings. "There is this general attitude that Christians will be protected already if we do nothing, or very little."
The genocide of 90,000 Christians a year show they are not protected. While Christians are a majority class in the United States, they are minorities in much of the rest of the world.
The Trump administration should address this atrocity and investigate it as a potentially serious threat to domestic security. At the very least, Americans need to know more about it.
A special presidential envoy, charged with reducing religious tensions in the world's more religiously divided regions, could be a good, peaceful start.