Thursday, March 16, 2017

On the Edge Between Life and Death

From Columbia Online:
Expelled from their ancestral lands in 2014 by militants of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or Daesh), more than 70,000 Christians – nearly one-third of all remaining Christians in Iraq – are still in exile in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region. The displaced community saw a ray of hope when, for the first time, a U.S. congressman came to visit them just before Christmas.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a leading human rights lawmaker who has chaired nine congressional hearings on atrocities in Iraq and Syria since 2013, arrived in Erbil Dec. 20, 2016, on a mission to witness firsthand the plight of the displaced Christians.

“When I went to Erbil, temperatures had already begun to drop below freezing, and the risk of life-threatening illnesses was on the rise,” Smith said of the visit. “U.S. action is more critical than ever to ensure these genocide survivors receive the assistance needed for their basic survival.” Invited by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, Smith met with refugee families, local Catholic and Orthodox bishops as well as government and NGO officials. Knights of Columbus staff helped to organize the trip and accompanied Smith during the visit. For the past two years, the Order’s Christian Refugee Relief Fund has provided aid to the displaced community, which has been denied humanitarian assistance by the U.S. government and the United Nations.

Following the December visit, Rep. Smith, together with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), introduced legislation in the newly convened 115th U.S. Congress to provide emergency relief to persecuted Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities, as well as to ensure accountability for perpetrators. (Read more.)

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