Washington, D.C. – In Defense of Christians (IDC) President Toufic Baaklini today issued the following statement applauding the co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), along with Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA), for meeting with the White House National Security team and calling on the Obama Administration to directly assist the Christians of Iraq. (https://fortenberry.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/fortenberry-calls-white-house-direct-assistance-persecuted-christians)

“This week, IDC Director of Government Relations, Kristina Olney, met with President Obama’s National Security Council staff at the White House to discuss the current status of operations in Iraq and ongoing concern for the plight of religious minorities, especially Christians.

“In the same week, Representatives Fortenberry, Eshoo, and Denham issued a joint statement urging the President to take action in defense of persecuted Christians and all religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly those endangered or displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and called upon the President for swift action in the form of humanitarian aid, special refugee status for victims, and empowering minorities to defend themselves:

“‘Victims of religious persecution are in desperate need of humanitarian aid in the face of extremist and violent acts from groups like ISIL.USAID partners have reached only 24 percent of displaced populations residing outside of camps with non-food humanitarian assistance. A countless number of victims are slipping through the cracks, and the United States must bolster this effort. Persecuted peoples who wish to leave should have access to a priority refugee status process with the State Department. The current multi-year wait period is simply too long for religious minorities under constant threat of death, torture and starvation… We (share) a desire for developing a pathway to grant certain local security forces—including Christian groups—a status similar to that of National Guard units, enabling them to provide better protective zones for their communities while supporting a national security mission.’

“IDC thanks these members of Congress for bringing attention to the dire challenges facing the Christians of Iraq and the Middle East and for advising the administration toward a concrete response. The three-pronged approach of aid, immigration and empowerment is comprehensive and presents the best chance to deliver needed assistance to the region’s persecuted Christians.

“Christians are pillars of Middle Eastern civilization. Christians have as much a claim as anyone to live in their ancestral homelands. Their enduring presence in the Middle East is a proven leaven of peace, development, diversity, and tolerance to the region, engendering greater political and civil stability.”

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