Congressman Requests Assistance for Iraqi Christians

Congressman Gary Peters Requests Assistance for Iraqi Christians

15 Representatives join Peters, Eshoo, Levin and Dold to protect minorities

(Washington, D.C.) November 29, 2011 — Congressman Gary Peters, an active member of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, worked with U.S. Representatives Eshoo, Levin and Dold to seek greater assistance for the ethno-religious minorities of Iraq. Today, they sent a letter signed by a total of 19 Members of Congress seeking funding for increased security and assistance to NGOs in the Nineveh Plains and to Christian Iraqis overall.

The letter was sent to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

The letter acknowledges that the ethno-religious minorities of Iraq, such as Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriacs and other communities of faith are struggling to “maintain a foothold in the land they have inhabited for thousands of years.” It further recognizes that the Iraqi Christian population is 50% less than what it was in 2003, and perhaps even lower.

In asking for increased assistance to Iraqi Christians, Congressman Peters and his colleagues write that the “daily persecution has resulted in ongoing exodus that threatens the very survival of these ancient communities. Without significant assistance, Iraqis and members of the Iraqi Diaspora believe complete depopulation is possible within a decade.”

The focus of the letter is for the 2012 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill to include language recognizing the importance of “providing targeted assistance to ethno-religious minorities in Iraq to help ensure their continued survival, especially those living in the Nineveh Plains region.”


USCIRF Condemns Terrorist Attack on Baghdad Church

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Nov. 3, 2010 – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned Sunday’s terrorist attack on Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Catholic church and expressed its sincere condolences to the victims and their families.  Reports indicate that at least 40 worshippers, two priests, and 10 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed, and more than 60 people were wounded.

“This horrific attack is a sobering reminder of what all should already know–that Iraqi Christians clearly continue to face a grave terrorist threat,” said USCIRF chair Leonard Leo.  “We recognize the promptness with which the Iraqi government responded to the hostage situation at the church, and it is most unfortunate that all of the hostages could not be safely rescued and that security forces were killed.  In the wake of this brazen and senseless attack, we urge the Iraqi government to proactively heighten security at Christian and other minority religious sites and the United States government to increase its support of such efforts.”
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Bishops show solidarity with Iraqi Christians, say U.S. has moral obligation to help

WASHINGTON (November 2, 2010) — Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offered the prayers of the U.S. bishops and expressed solidarity with the suffering Christians of Iraq following the October 31 attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad that killed 58 people and wounded 75.

“We stand with the bishops, Church and people of Iraq in their urgent search for greater security, freedom and protection,” said Cardinal George in a November 1 statement. “We call upon the United States to take additional steps to help Iraq protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable.”
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France to bulldoze shelters of refugees and asylum-seekers

Radio Free Europe reports that

The French government says it will close a wasteland district of Calais known as “the Jungle” this week. It is an area where hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers — many of them refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq — have set up makeshift shelters while waiting for a chance to stow away on trucks and ferries bound for Britain.

The British government has been pressuring France to do more to stop illegal migrants from trying to enter the United Kingdom, which is considered an end destination for many migrants. Residents of Calais also have called for action against the camps, claiming that migrants there are responsible for a growing local crime rate.

France’s immigration minister, Eric Besson, has suggested that illegal migrants could be put in detention centers and eventually sent back to their troubled countries. That warning has prompted many to leave their ramshackle shelters and go into hiding.

Read the full report here.

Belgium restarts refugee resettlement program, accepts displaced Iraqis

The United Nations today welcomed the return of Belgium’s refugee resettlement program marked by the transfer of some 36 Iraqis who were previously sheltered in Syria and Jordan.

Iraqi refugees in Syria. (Peter Balleis, S.J./Jesuit Refugee Service)

Iraqi refugees in Syria. (Peter Balleis, S.J./Jesuit Refugee Service)

This first group of Iraqi refugees to settle in Belgium included some single mothers and their children, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

Mr. Mahecic noted that later this month some 11 Palestinian refugees from the no-man’s land refugee camp located on the border between Syria and Iraq are also slated to be housed in Belgium.
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Iraqi refugees and asylum–seekers seek safe haven in U.S.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA notes that the situation of Iraqi refugees remains a crisis, one that calls for redoubled efforts to achieve a durable solution to their situation. Two million Iraqi refugees and three million internally displaced Iraqis add up to a vast displacement that will take years to resolve. It is important that within Iraq, immediate efforts focus on assisting the increasing number of internally displaced Iraqis to return to their homes. Reintegration programs established now can equally well benefit those returning from overseas, as their basic needs will be similar.

The New York Times tells the story of an Iraqi asylum seeker to highlight a report released by the International Rescue Committee about the plight of Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. (Hat tip to CLINIC)

Jolie urges more support for Iraqi displaced

Academy award-winning actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations refugee agency Angelina Jolie last week called for greater support for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced.

“This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives,” said Ms. Jolie, who was visiting families in a makeshift settlement in a suburb of Baghdad, on her third visit to the country.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador spent a day at a camp in the Chikook suburb of northwest Baghdad, home to some 20,000 people, listening to men, women and children forced from their homes in the western suburbs of the capital.
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