Indigenous Christian Communities in Iraq and Syria Face Extinction

Indigenous Christian Communities in Iraq and Syria Face Extinction

Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson testified last week before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee describing a dire situation for Christians in Iraq and Syria that the United States could take steps to improve. 

"Many of the region's indigenous communities now face extinction. These communities may disappear in less than a decade. But their fate is not inevitable," Anderson warned lawmakers.

Anderson outlined six specific steps the United States can take to avoid potential annihilation of the Christian population in Iraq and Syria:

1) Increase humanitarian aid and provide oversight to ensure it gets to those targeted for genocide.

2) Support the long-term survival of indigenous religious and ethnic communities by supporting their right to remain in their country.
3) Punish the perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity.
4) Assist the victims of genocide to attain refugee status.
5) Prepare now for foreseeable human rights challenges as ISIS-controlled territory is liberated and civilians flee the violence.
6) Condition humanitarian and military assistance to governments in the region on their meaningful commitment to human rights.

Anderson also reported that Christian leaders in Iraq and Syria say they receive no money from the United States Government or the United Nations to respond to the crisis of Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs and urban refugees. 

"If assistance from outside Church affiliated agencies ends in Erbil [Iraq], Christians will face a catastrophic humanitarian tragedy within 30 days," said Anderson. He explained that, while these private charities have responded to the humanitarian need, the assistance of governments and international organizations is necessary.

The hearing, entitled "The ISIS Genocide Declaration: What Next?", included testimony from Sarhang Hamasseed of the U.S. Institute of Peace; Johnny Oram, executive director of the Chaldean Assyrian Business Alliance; and David Crane of Syracuse University College of Law.

The Knights of Columbus has raised more than $10.5 million to provide housing, food, medical aid, education and general relief to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities, especially from Iraq and Syria, and to raise awareness about their plight. 

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