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Mindy Belz, senior editor at World Mag­azine, gave a lecture Tuesday night on Christian per­se­cution in the middle east. Nicole Ault | Col­legian

As a senior editor and writer for World Mag­azine since 1986, Mindy Belz has reported from coun­tries around the world, focusing on war and per­se­cution in the Middle East. She is the author of “They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Per­se­cuted Chris­tians from the Middle East.” On Tuesday, she spoke at Hillsdale College about her expe­ri­ences as a jour­nalist cov­ering inter­na­tional per­se­cution and the refugee crisis.

What inspired you to focus on Christian per­se­cution in the Middle East?

When I first started doing inter­na­tional reporting, the Middle East was the last place I wanted to focus; the lan­guage is dif­ferent, the culture is dif­ferent, the food is dif­ferent — and there’s a lot of con­flict, so it seems like a for­bidding place. 9/11 was really a cat­alyst; then it just seemed like we couldn’t ignore the Middle East. What kept me going back was meeting the people. It’s a place of amazing hos­pi­tality, amazing people who are very resilient and very reli­gious, almost in their DNA. It’s been drawing me back to keep telling those stories.

What is it like inter­viewing refugee children?

It’s really chal­lenging. Yes­terday, I was in a school in Detroit that has pre­dom­i­nantly refugee children. They still in many ways are trau­ma­tized; I realized I had to be really careful and con­sid­erate of that and all that they’ve been through, trying to find out their stories without reopening a lot of trauma. This is their safe place, and they don’t want to keep going over that. I think it is the children that get me. You see just what an incredibly chal­lenging and tragic story theirs is, because they’re old enough to have really absorbed and will always remember what they’ve seen. Some of these kids have seen their parents and sib­lings killed. One had his brother killed right beside him in a bombing. I never dreamed that this was the kind of thing I would be cov­ering, but it is what’s hap­pening. If there’s any­thing that sort of haunts me or dis­turbs me, it’s these kids, and the ones who are old enough to under­stand that what they’re seeing and living through is not what life should be.

 

What are the dangers of going to these coun­tries as a reporter?

I’m often asked, “Were you afraid?” And the honest answer is no. It’s not that I’m a brave person; it’s just that this is not the thing that makes me feel afraid. I find that it’s the same things that worry me here that worry me there, like getting lost or having a driver that doesn’t show up. I do try to take pre­cau­tions. But once I’m in a sit­u­ation and I know that I have this job to do, I don’t think a whole lot about it. I think it’s usually after the fact that you realize, yeah, that was probably pretty dan­gerous. I was in Mosul in Iraq in Feb­ruary, and you’re hearing air­planes overhead and guns in the dis­tance and shelling, but the thing that you realize is that the people there are living with that every day. They’re living with it all the time, so when you’re there on the ground, you realize this is normal life for them, so you shouldn’t be afraid. Usually the people that I’m reporting about are in much more danger than I am at that given moment.

How has reporting in these areas shaped you as a person and as a jour­nalist?

Having a bigger per­spective on the world helps you to put every­thing in per­spective. A lot of our political squabbles and debates almost seem immature in com­parison to what people are living with as a result of political deci­sions. It’s been really dis­cour­aging to me the way that refugees have been talked about in this country and politi­cized over the past year and a half. It’s dis­heart­ening and tragic to me, because I’ve seen the sit­u­a­tions and tragedies that these people are coming out of. You don’t leave your homeland, unless you are truly, truly des­perate. “Refugee” has come to be a suspect term, and we have so his­tor­i­cally been a country that has wel­comed those people. I think there’s a real desire to turn inward and protect what we have, and we know that his­tor­i­cally that doesn’t work out well and bib­li­cally that doesn’t work out well. We can protect our security without having to den­i­grate refugees. It makes me heartsick to see what other people live with in other coun­tries. That’s a huge way my per­spective has been shaped by what I’ve seen and done and where I’ve been.