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55 Members of Congress Call on Obama Administration to Do More to Ensure Religious Minorities are Protected

June 19th, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fifty-five Members of Congress today called on the Obama Administration to do more to help protect religious minorities in Iraq.

In a letter to the president spearheaded by Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, the bipartisan group of House Members urged the Obama Administration to actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to prioritize additional security support for especially vulnerable populations, notably Iraq’s ancient Christian community and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected communities.

“Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries,” the group wrote.

The group pointed to the rapid fall of multiple cities in Iraq to the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which brings the militant group notably closer to its declared aim of establishing a caliphate that spans the northern sections of Syria and Iraq.

“For years we have witnessed a precipitous decline of Iraq’s Christian community,” the letter said. “Thousands have fled in the face of targeted violence. Many of those that remained relocated to Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. To people of faith, Nineveh is familiar name: the site of a dramatic spiritual revival as told in the biblical book of Jonah. These areas were one of the last remaining havens for this beleaguered community.”

The letter also highlighted the fact that for the first time in 1,600 years there was no Mass in Mosul on Sunday after having fallen to the ISIS last week.

Below is the complete text of the letter:

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
The President
The White House
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Many Americans have been deeply troubled by the unfolding crisis in Iraq. The rapid fall of multiple Iraqi cities to the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) brings the militant group notably closer to its declared aim of establishing a caliphate that spans the northern sections of Syria and Iraq. A June 12 BBC article described ISIS in the following way: “The group has a reputation for brutality. Parts of Syria and Iraq that have previously fallen under its rule have witnessed summary execution, beheadings and even crucifixions.”

It is against this backdrop that we write to you bearing in mind recent reports from Archbishop Bashar M. Warda of the Chaldean Diocese of Erbil. While his particular diocese is relatively calm at the moment, the picture that he painted, consistent with news reports, of the situation in Mosul and the implications for Iraq’s ancient Christian community and other religious minorities was bleak and sobering.

For years we have witnessed a precipitous decline of Iraq’s Christian community. Thousands have fled in the face of targeted violence. Many of those that remained relocated to Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. To people of faith, Nineveh is familiar name: the site of a dramatic spiritual revival as told in the biblical book of Jonah. These areas were one of the last remaining havens for this beleaguered community. In fact Archbishop Warda indicated that this past Sunday, for the first time in 1,600 years, there was no Mass in Mosul.

For the thousands who have already fled Mosul, they are facing not just displacement and imminent danger but a growing humanitarian nightmare marked by lack of access to clean water, food, fuel and electricity.

As such, we urge you and your administration to urgently and actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to prioritize additional security support for these particularly vulnerable populations and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected communities. Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.

Best wishes.

Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Gary Peters (D-MI)
Sander Levin (D-MI)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Tom Cole (R-OK)
Tom Cotton (R-AR)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Joseph Pitts (R-PA)
Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI)
Paul Cook (R-CA)
Michael Grimm (R-NY)
Gregg Harper (R-MS)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Bill Posey (R-FL)
Steve Stivers (R-OH)
James Lankford (R-OK)
Tim Griffin (R-AR)
Dennis Ross (R-FL)
Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
Duncan Hunter (D-CA)
Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
Scott Peters (D-CA)
Gene Green (D-TX)
James McGovern (D-MA)
David Jolly (R-FL)
Andy Harris (R-MD)
Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
Juan Vargas (D-CA)
Mo Brooks (R-AL)
Patrick Tiberi (R-OH)
John Larson (D-CT)
Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
David McKinley (R-WV)
Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Michael Honda (D-CA)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Christopher Gibson (R-NY)
James Langevin (D-RI)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Trent Franks (R-AZ)
Tom Graves (R-GA)
John Dingell (D-MI)
Grace Meng (D-NY)
Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)
Keith Rothfus (R-PA)
Janice Schakowsky (D-IL)

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