Iraq (MNN) – For religious minorities in Iraq, time is running short.
The Islamic State is inching closer to its goal of eradicating Christians and Yezidis from their historic homeland. Over the past 14 years, the number of Iraq’s Christians has dropped from 1.5 million to 250,000. About 3,000 men and women of the Yezidi minority—ethnically Kurdish people whose religion contains elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam—remain enslaved by ISIS.
Former Congressman Frank Wolf recently testified before the U.S. House and Senate following his trip to Iraq. He discussed the severity of the situation and the opportunity we have to prevent it. He finished his testimony with four recommendations, as reported by Religion News Service:
- Our government needs “fresh eyes” in Iraq with regard to our current policies to provide humanitarian aid as well as protect our national security interests.
- President Trump should issue a Presidential Decision Directive or Presidential Memorandum directing the State Department and USAID to immediately address the needs to communities identified by Secretary Tillerson as having been targeted for genocide.
- A post should be established by the White House for an inter-agency coordinator to guarantee that the needs of these communities are adequately addressed to ensure their safety and preservation consistent with U.S. foreign policy.
- Congress should immediately pass H.R. 390, the bipartisan Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, authored by Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and coauthored by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
We spoke with Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Kristin Wright for some context on the crisis: “This campaign to exterminate these groups and to literally raid Iraq of Christians and Yezidis is one that is ongoing, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that just because ISIS is being pushed back, in certain areas, that doesn’t mean that the threat is over.
“In fact, as we’re witnessing firsthand, the hour is late right now for Christians and for Yezidis in the region, and that’s because many are realizing that the only option they have is to leave Iraq if they want education for their children, security, a future.”
On October 5, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed H.R. 390. If signed by Congress, it would provide more funding for emergency relief for victims of genocide in Iraq and Syria, as well as hold the perpetrators accountable.
“It’s more timely than ever that we look at flexible funding to help preserve these groups and these communities,” Wright says. “We need to look at Iraq, as former Congressman Wolf mentioned, with fresh eyes. We need to analyze the situation, and the aid situation needs to be targeted. We need to be looking at the preservation of the Yezidis, the preservation of Christians, and the preservation of the Turkmen, and these other smaller groups that have been targeted specifically by ISIS.”
Open Doors is working on the ground in Iraq, providing food, education, and biblical counseling for those who have been traumatized. It’s also launched a campaign called Hope for the Middle East with a goal of raising one million signatures in support of persecuted believers.
“One of the unique things about this campaign is that it actually originated with Christians on the ground in Iraq, where we went firsthand and asked them, ‘What would you like to see and hear as far as action from our government officials at the United Nations and at the highest levels of government around the world?’” Wright says. “And what they asked for was sustainability. They’re looking for hope. They’re looking for a right to equal citizenship, for dignified living conditions, and for a prominent role in rebuilding their society.”
The situation is becoming increasingly dire every moment, but through organizations like Open Doors, you can help give hope to those who have none. Click here to sign Open Doors’ petition, or click here for other ways to get involved.