Christians in Iraq and Syria have been told by ISIS that they must "convert or die" and this is "a problem that's not going to go away. We need to have a plan, and it doesn't seem like our government has a plan," filmmaker Jordan Allott said in an interview last week, echoing President Obama's comments yesterday: "We don't have a strategy yet" for confronting ISIS in Syria.
"Some of the things we've been doing with air strikes just seems for show - what is the long term plan to help Christians and other [religious minorities] that are being savaged?" said Allott in an interview with CNSNews.com. Allott is a documentary filmmaker who recently filmed in both Syria and Iraq. He travelled there through Turkey's porous border - the same way beheaded American journalist James Foley and fighters for the Islamic State did before him.
American "air strikes are limited, and ISIS knows the U.S. government does not want to get involved in Iraq. They are willing to take a step back and wait. They know how our political system works, that you have to show you're doing something and [ISIS] can ... wait" it out.
Obama conceded Allott's point yesterday, saying at a press conference that he doesn't need to seek approval of Congress to "go into Syria," yet because: "I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet. I think what I've seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we're at than we currently are."
"And I think that's not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military, as well," Obama continued. "I don't want to put the cart before the horse. And in some of the media reports, the suggestion seems to have been that, you know, we're about to go full-scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL."
"The Kurds and Christians welcomed American air strikes, but it's not enough," Allott told CNSNews.com. "ISIS has started to change tactics and take hostages [so as to] place hostages close to where we would place air strikes, as human shields."
"If all [religious minorities] leave Iraq and Syria, it becomes like Saudi Arabia or an Islamic State," Allott said. "Christians tend to provide education, and young Muslims who grow up with Christians would have a positive view of them, and not become radicalized."
Iraqi and Syrian Christians are not seeking merely asylum from the international community - they do not want to be forced to leave their countries, because their voices for plurality and moderation are needed in their homelands. "A small number of Christians can really have an impact on the rest of society and the politics of the country," said Allott.
"If there aren't any Christians around, it's easy to radicalize the next generation," said Allott. "There are a number of good reasons why [U.S. policy] should push the idea of allowing them to stay."
Allott is also a senior advisor to In Defense of Christians, an advocacy group that is trying to give voice to persecuted Christians, and advocate on their behalf in U.S. and international foreign policy.
Because ISIS is bent on the total annihilation of all religious opposition, "We need to eradicate ISIS," Allott said.
Allott said ISIS is issuing us a challenge: "ISIS used a British man to behead Foley to send a message that they are a global operation: a Christian from America being killed by a Muslim from England. That's a message they're sending - is that going to scare us off? They can recruit from anywhere in the world; are we going to get scared by that? What are we willing to do as Christians for our brother-and-sister Christians?"