Arizona GOP Congressman Paul Gosar announced he was going to boycott Pope Francis' speech to Congress, because he doesn't think the Catholic pontiff speaks out against Islamic extremism, or sticks up for oppressed Christians in the Middle East. But evidence shows Pope Francis is already doing both, criticizing violent Islam and supporting oppressed Middle Eastern Christians.
Rep. Gosar writes that he would have gone to see Pope Francis, if only he spoke out for Christian minorities in the Middle East, and would condemn violent Muslims, according to his TownHall.com column.
Many believed, like I did, that this was an opportunity for the Pope to be one of the world's great religious advocates and address the current intolerance of religious freedom. An opportunity to urgently challenge governments to properly address the persecution and execution of Christians and religious minorities; to address the heinous and senseless murders committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly.
But according to numerous publications, Pope Francis was honored by Yazidis for his help in rallying the world to help defend them against persecution, from ISIS. As Carey Lodge from Christianity Today writes:
Pope Francis on Thursday was thanked by a delegation of Yazidi representatives for his love and support during their persecution at the hands of Islamic State. The Pope has consistently called for the minority group's protection, and yesterday met with the Yazidi spiritual leader, Sheikh Kato, their secular leader, Tahsin Said Ali Beg, in addition to several other representatives at the Vatican.
During the ISIS attack on Yazidis in Iraq, Pope Francis:
"expressed outrage at violence aimed at religious minorities in Iraq, where fleeing children have died of thirst, and called on the world 'to stop these crimes.' In a strongly worded message during his traditional Sunday blessing, Francis said the news from Iraq 'leaves us in dismay and disbelief.' He cited 'the thousands of people, including Christians, who have been brutally forced from their homes, children who have died from thirst during the escape and women who have been seized.'"
This information comes to us by way of the Associated Press, reprinted in the New York Daily News. Pope Francis also dispatched his personal emissary to the region and worked the international community to help the Yazidis.
Okay, so Congressman Gosar is dead wrong about Pope Francis not sticking up for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. But what about speaking out against Islamic extremism?
Well, in his pre-Christmas speech, Josephine McKenna from USA Today reported that Pope Francis called upon "Muslims to condemn violence."
"In an open Christmas letter to beleaguered Christians in the region, the pope called on Muslims to push a "more authentic image of Islam, as so many of them desire. 'Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence,' the pope said. 'The tragic situation faced by our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq, as well as the Yazidi and members of other religious and ethnic communities, demands that all religious leaders clearly speak out to condemn these crimes unanimously and unambiguously.'"
So, Pope Francis has condemned violent Islam, and addressed the persecution of Christians and religious minorities, and urged Western nations to rescue these persecuted Middle East Christians, everything Representative Gosar claimed would lead him to "cheer on" Pope Francis and "would back him wholeheartedly."
It seems this Catholic congressman is really doing it because he disagrees with Pope Francis on climate change. But by deliberately misrepresenting Pope Francis' record on violent Islam and the defense of persecuted Christian minorities, Rep. Gosar has lost any moral high ground he thinks he had.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.