Washington, DC, September 13, 2016 — Last Friday, September 9, Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced H. Res. 852, a bipartisan resolution highlighting the political and refugee crisis in Lebanon to coincide with IDC’s third annual National Advocacy Day.
The resolution expresses the sense of the House of Representatives on the challenges posed to longterm stability in Lebanon by the conflict in Syria as a result of violent attacks against Lebanese citizens perpetrated by combatants active in Syria and a massive influx of refugees fleeing the conflict.
With approximately 1.5 million declared Syrian refugees and an additional half million who are undeclared, Lebanon is hosting more refugees proportionally than any country in the world. The refugee crisis has further depressed the economy of Lebanon, which has a national debt of approximately 140 percent of the gross domestic product.
Leading experts Dr. Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations, and IDC board members Professor Alexis Moukarzel , Neemat Frem, and Judge Joseph Boohaker discussed solutions to the refugee and political crisis in Lebanon at IDC’s National Advocacy Convention Policy and Awareness Symposium last Friday.
The resolution was introduced with 14 original co-sponsors, Representatives Ralph Abraham (R-AL), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David Cicilline (D-RI), James McGovern (D-MA), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Charles Boustany (R-LA), Donald Beyer (D-VA), Gwen Graham (D-FL), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Randy Weber (R-TX), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).
The resolution encourages continued coordination between the Secretary of State, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and humanitarian organizations, to ensure that refugees from the conflict in Syria, including those in Lebanon, are supported in such a way as to mitigate any potentially destabilizing effect on their host countries and recognizes the importance of United States and international assistance to the people of Lebanon, in order to build the capacity of Lebanon to provide services and security for Lebanese citizens and particularly to curb the influence of Hezbollah.
Today, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and David Perdue (R-GA), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the companion senate resolution, S. Res. 553.
“It is in America’s—and the world’s—best interests to support a secure and stable Lebanon, which is home to the largest percentage of Christians of any nation in the region,” said Senator Perdue. “Lebanon is on the front lines of the fight against ISIS and is hosting more refugees proportionally than any nation in the world. However, the Lebanese government is in gridlock because of the meddling of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah. It is critical the United States works to ensure that the Lebanese government weathers the worsening Syrian conflict and can continue to support the people of Lebanon.”
“Lebanon has been asked to shoulder an enormous burden as a result of the ongoing conflict in Syria and this should be acknowledged by the United States Senate,” said Senator Shaheen. “The Lebanese people have demonstrated true humanitarian spirit in welcoming more than one million Syrian refugees even as they face attacks by ISIS. To help preserve a fragile sense of stability in Lebanon, the U.S. has and should continue to provide humanitarian support, as well as economic and security assistance to the government of Lebanon to counter the influence of Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which is feeding the very conflict in Syria which threatens Lebanon’s stability.”
IDC President Toufic Baaklini applauded the sponsors of the House and Senate resolutions for their leadership on this resolution in support of Lebanon.
“Lebanon is a beacon of pluralism and has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East. It is in the interests of the United States to help preserve its unique political constitution, a pluralistic democracy in the Middle East with a framework of confessionalism, by ensuring that it is not destabilized by the refugee crisis,” Baaklini stated.
BACKGROUND ON IDC
This pro-activity with regards to protecting ancient Christian communities is par for the course for IDC. In March, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. State Department declared the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) guilty of perpetrating genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in the territories under ISIS control. This historic moment was the result of months of close, bi-partisan collaboration between In Defense of Christians (IDC), U.S. Representative Fortenberry (R-NE), U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the Knights of Columbus and other activists, religious scholars and human rights experts.
IDC believes that the future of the region depends on multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pluralistic societies, where Christians and other minorities can live in freedom and peace and contribute to the dialogues and debates of future governance structures.
Read an IDC/Knights of Columbus report documenting genocide against Christians and Yazidis in ISIS controlled territories: Genocide against Christians in the Middle East was requested by the State Department and submitted to State on March 9, 2016.