Today, Pastor Kevin preached about Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Acts 9 tells how Saul, with the approval from authorities, was finding Christians–men and women–and dragging them off to prison. During our discussion time, Kevin asked what we thought Saul was thinking during those three days he sat in Damascus, blind, after hearing Jesus say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
I didn’t enter into the discussion, but here’s what I was thinking. Did Saul think about the human cost of what he had been doing? Of ripping mothers and fathers away from their children? Of taking a man or woman from his/her spouse? Of disrupting livelihoods and causing hardship for the people who depended on them? Of the mistreatment these people experienced while incarcerated? Of the fear un-arrested Christians lived with every day?
My mind went in that direction because I’m still extremely troubled by what happened last weekend in Detroit, when ICE swooped in and arrested scores of Chaldean Christians to deport them back to Iraq. What Saul did 2000 years ago was echoed in Detroit–families being ripped apart, people living in fear, children traumatized, livelihoods disrupted, extended family members forced to seek recourse where little recourse existed because of unbending policies. Tears, lots of tears, and anguish. Hundreds more Chaldean Christians have been targeted for deportation. Some have already been sent back to Iraq.
I don’t know what happened to those persons Saul imprisoned. How long were they incarcerated? What kind of sentences did they receive? Were some executed? What happened to their children? To their businesses? To the extended family who depended on them? Did they have any legal recourse?
Those folks in Detroit, like the countless others ICE has arrested during the last few months across the country, have practically no recourse. They are in the ICE system, and they will be deported. I’ve also discovered that, Christians or not, they have practically no sympathy from conservative evangelicals like me.
As these Christians are returned to Iraq, we can be pretty sure that at least some of them will be killed there. Sometimes crucified. Yes, that happens in Iraq. In America, they have freedom to practice (like me) their Christian faith; in Iraq, they can be killed for it. Since 2003, the number of Christians in Iraq has plummeted from 1.4 million to 200,000. This is what we are sending men and women, mothers and fathers, back to. This is what people said they elected the president to do.
As an American, I will be partly responsible for their deaths. I’m not okay with that.