It was 1938, and George Weidenfeld was a young Jewish boy living in Austria. He narrowly escaped the horrors of the Holocaust thanks to the generosity of Christians who smuggled him from Austria to England.
After coming to England as a penniless refugee, Weidenfeld became a publishing mogul and was knighted as a British “Lord.” He died in January at the age of 96. Toward the end of his life, he started using the fortune he amassed to “repay his debt” to Christians by saving Christians one by one from ISIS.
“I can’t save the world, but there is a very specific possibility on the Christian side,” he told The Times of Israel when talking about his choice to fund the rescue of 2,000 Syrian and Iraqi Christians.
When CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Weidenfeld why he was only saving Christians, he replied: “I want to focus on something I can—with great difficulty and effort—achieve. I have tremendous sympathy for Muslim victims, but … Muslims could be shifted a few hundred kilometers away, but the Christians will have to find safe havens at the other end of the earth.”
Tragically, the Western end of the earth isn’t open to these Christians. They can’t find safe haven in the United States because the government continues to deny them visas. When asked why, the U.S. government has repeatedly provided stock answers about “weighing a variety of factors” in determining who gets into the country. But the government doesn’t seem to be taking many steps to help Christians who are facing the potential eradication of their ancient faith and culture in the cradle of Christianity.
This isn’t the first time the United States denied asylum to people fleeing danger in their home country. The last time, most famously, was in 1939.
In May of that year, the transatlantic ocean liner St. Louis sailed from Germany bound for America. On board were 937 Jews attempting to flee the terror they saw coming. Yet, when they reached the U.S., they found a country unwilling to take them in. U.S. officials denied them entry and turned their ship back to Europe. In the end, hundreds of the Jewish passengers were carted off to Nazi concentration camps, and more than half of them died.
Jewish people like Lord Weidenfeld recognize the similarities between that time and this one—between the Nazis and ISIS. Arab Christians like Father Douglas Bazi are begging the world to open its borders.
Terrorists first attacked Bazi in 2006, when he lived in Baghdad. He was shot and tortured. They broke his back and smashed his face and knees with a hammer. He also survived attempted bombings of his church, and he was kidnapped for nine days.
Bazi has had a front row seat to the decade-long assault and persecution that has nearly eradicated Christianity from its ancient heartland. Now, he concedes that it’s time to consider leaving.
“If you love us,” he says, “let us leave.”
Christians in the West should commit to sustaining, supporting and praying for those who want to stay in their homeland, but should also commit to opening countries, welcoming the “stranger” and raising money to save those who want to leave.
Since the Holocaust, a simple phrase has found currency in our language. We’ve heard it on the lips of presidents and preachers, humanitarians and human right officials: “never again.”
Johnnie Moore is author of Dirty God: Jesus in the Trenches (Thomas Nelson, 2013) and vice president and campus pastor at Liberty University. He is also on the board of World Help.