When I was eight, maybe nine years old, I remember thumbing through an old family photo album.
Looking at pictures of my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and baby pictures of my siblings and me, I suddenly spotted a picture I had never seen before.
It was a picture of a young man and woman, and three small children.
I ran to my mother.
“Who are these people?” I asked.
My mother looked at the picture, and then turned away.
“It’s my cousin, Chaya Rivka, and her husband Yaakov (Jacob) Shlomo, and their three children.”
I asked my mother where they lived now, and wondered why I had never met them.
My mother was quiet for a moment.
Finally, she told me that they were no longer alive.
Very curious, I pressed for details.
Another moment of silence. And then she said, with a terrible sadness:
“They were killed by the Nazis.”
My mother, together with her parents and her siblings, had all left Kovno, Lithuania (which was then part of the Soviet Union) for America in the late 1920’s.
But Chaya Rivka and her family had remained in Lithuania.
In the summer of 1940, when the Germans entered the city of Kovno, between ten and fifteen thousand Jews – men, women and children – were rounded up, taken to the outskirts of the city, and executed by machine gun fire.
Chaya Rivka, her husband and their three children were among them.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Chaya Rivka and her family, with the almost daily reports of innocent Christians in the Middle East, and Africa, being murdered in unspeakably horrific atrocities.
I would like to believe that the world has learned something since the dark days of World War II.
But, where are the world leaders? Where is the U.N.? Why is this genocide not being stopped?
When my mother passed away, and my siblings and I went through her belongings, I found an old, tattered prayer book, published in Lithuania.
It was inscribed: “To my dearest cousin: We shall be best friends forever — Chaya Rivka”
As the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz cried, as she melted, “Oh, what a world. What a world.”
Via WSJ: Walter Russell Mead — The Plight of the Middle East’s Christians
The Christian communities of Syria and Iraq have survived 2,000 years of tumult and war. In some of them, prayers are still said in Aramaic, the language that Jesus used in daily life. These communities now tremble on the brink of destruction.
The numbers are stark. Almost 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Between the U.S.-led invasion that toppled his regime in 2003 and the rise of Islamic State, three-fourths of the country’s Christians are believed to have fled Iraq or died in sectarian conflict. The carnage continues. Of the 300,000 Christians remaining in 2014, some 125,000 have been driven from their homes within the past year….
Almost a third of Syrians were Christian as recently as the 1920s, but only about 10% of the country’s 22 million inhabitants at the onset of the current civil war were members of Christian communities….
The conscience of the West has been slow to wake to the peril of the dwindling minorities of the Middle East (including non-Christians such as the Yazidis, as well as the persecuted Baha’i of Iran and the Ahmadis of Pakistan), but Islamic State is changing that….
This is a very good thing, but advocates for the Christians and other endangered Middle East minorities must think hard about the available options. We must choose from among three courses of action.
We can help the region’s minorities “fort up,” as the Israelis, Kurds and Maronites have done. We can help them to escape and work with friends and allies around the world to help them find new homes and start new lives. Or we can do what history suggests, alas, as our most probable course: We can wring our hands and weep piously as the ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq are murdered, raped and starved into oblivion, one by one.