Every month IDC’s Director of Government Relations Kristina Olney will give you the latest updates from Capitol Hill, the White House, the State Department, and all relevant legislative initiatives regarding the Christians of the Middle East. In this month’s edition, you can read the latest on H. Con. Res. 75, the reauthorization of USCIRF, and read Member of Congress quotes from the National Leadership Convention. Enjoy the first edition!
Genocide Resolution, H. Con. Res. 75
H. Con. Res. 75, decrying the crimes of ISIS against religious minorities as a genocide, now has the support of 146 Members of Congress. You can see which Members of Congess from your state have co-sponsored the resolution by clicking here. Simply click on the name of your state on the left hand tab.
IDC is working hard on getting a vote on this resolution, but in order to do so, we are going to need the support of at least 200 Members of Congress. If you haven’t already, please click here to write a letter to your Member of Congress asking them to co-sponsor this resolution! With one click you can send a strong message to your Representative that the United States must stand in solidarity with the Christians of the Middle East!
Congress Votes to Reauthorize USCIRF
We applaud the bi-partisan passage of S.2078, a bill which reauthorizes the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which passed this month. USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President,the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties.
Special Adviser for Religious Minorities Appointed
IDC has been calling on the U.S. government to appoint a Special Envoy for Religious Minorities in the Middle East since Congress passed and sent to the President’s desk a bill in 2014 creating the position. The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Senate by voice vote and unanimously in the House. Last month, Ambassador for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein, the keynote speaker at IDC’s 2015 National Leadership Convention, announced the appointment of Knox Thames as the Special Adviser for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South and Central Asia. IDC Board Member Bob Destro and Director of Government Relations Kristina Olney met with Special Adviser Knox Thames this week. They discussed the priorities of the office of international religious freedom at the State Department and how the United States government can further assist the Christians of the Middle East.
State Department Releases 2014 International Religious Freedom Report
Last week, the State Department released the 2014 International Religious Freedom Report. In his comments to the press on the report’s findings at the Press Conference on the release of the report, Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Rabbi David Saperstein said, “Across the Nineveh Plain, church bells have pealed for 1600 years. Today they are silent.”
Members of Congress Speak: Quotes from the National Leadership Convention
Below are quotes from many of the Members of Congress who spoke at IDC’s 2015 National Leadership Convention. Click here to see the videos of the Member Remarks on IDC’s YouTube channel.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
“ISIL’s objective isn’t just to establish their version of radical Islam in the Middle East and Northern Africa but also to destroy the culture and religious heritage of any and every group that doesn’t adhere to it’s fundamental principles; especially, the ancient and historic Christian communities are targeted because of their beliefs, and we have seen ISIL force Christians in Iraq and Syria and they tell them you have to flee, you have to convert, or you will face execution. ISIL has terrorized the Christians in Iraq and Syria destroying churches and even whole communities and cities.”
Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL)
“We here as a nation, as the greatest force for human dignity in the world, the United States, I believe, has an obligation to send an unequivocal message that we will not tolerate countries that fail to protect the very fundamental freedoms of religious liberty especially with religious minorities.”
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)
“I know that Congressman Fortenberry has introduced legislation, I will join him with that legislation and I will work with him to make sure that it moves forward because, part of what is important right now is naming things properly, calling them what they are…Our responsibility in that context is calling evil what it is we’re naming evil what is is we’re calling this genocide and we choose not to be silent we choose to use our voices.”
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL)
“We have to do what we can to provide a space, it’s not enough. Although we should be taking in refugees, we should be encouraging others to take in Christian refugees, but it’s even more important that we do what we can to establish safe zones so that the Christians can stay. All religious minorities in the Middle East should have the freedom to stay where they are. That is critical. We cannot just say we’re going to empty everyone out of the Middle East that’s being persecuted.”
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)
“The United States must stand strong on this issue. Christians in the Middle East, particularly in the Middle East, are being persecuted, and ultimately I think if left to their own devices that ISIS, the Al-Qaeda affiliates, radical Islamic extremists would do to Christians in the Middle East as the Germans, as the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, and America must stand firm in preventing that.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI)
“With the rise of radical Islam in that area, Christians are in trouble throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. I hope this administration dials up concern for Christians.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)
*Referring to a conference he attended in Rome, Italy.
“This year, one of our speakers was the head of the Syriac Rite, Syriac Orthodox Church, and he quite literally got down on his knees and said ‘I know what you heard last year, the message this year is different. Please help us get out, or they will kill every single one of us.’”
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)
“We need to lead by example. We need to show solidarity with those Christians who are persecuted for their religious faith. We need to make sure that those who are given the terrible choice of ‘convert or die’ are given options in a place of sanctuary.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
“If you are willing to take that sacrifice, make that phone call, perhaps give like you’ve never given before and get involved like never [before] lives will change. One at a time, but ultimately if not for us, then who? Because so many are remaining silent.”
Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA)
“What I’ve been pushing the administration to do is to grant status to a lot of people, mostly Christians who are in the area of that country [Iraq] to be processed within that country and then ultimately come to our country for sanctuary. We have a big country, we have a lot of space, and we have a lot of good hearts here. We should be able to accept each and every Christian, and minority, and woman who is persecuted in the Middle East to come here. We have space. We should, we absolutely should. There’s no reason people should be suffering.”
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
“Now the legislation that has been introduced is legislation that calls what is happening a genocide. A genocide because the oldest of the Christian communities are really being wiped out and there are really so many other religious people, people of religious backgrounds that are going with them too. I think in the United States of America – the greatest, most powerful country on the face of this earth- that future generations and historians will not judge us well if we don’t answer this call. There is so much that needs to be done in terms of humanitarian aid, in terms of our owns processes for immigration and political refugees, and all that needs to be done. But I think that unless we call this and name this for what it is that we will be judged poorly so it is with sadness that I say that we have legislation to call this a genocide.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
“So how do we reconcile these two tasks that we have? To attack the unjust structures that are leading to the wholesale slaughter of innocent people, and at the same time be guided by the ultimate principle, the transcendent ideal of love. That’s the task before us.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)
“We look at our TV screens and are told that this is a refugee crisis that it’s almost as if the question is ‘How will Europe, supported by America, accommodate itself to the ethnic and religious cleansing of the Middle East of all its Christian communities?’ That is not the objective and it is not a workable objective. The problem cannot be solved if 40,000 people can be moved through Hungary, or if more effective transportation can be provided from Turkey to Greece. The problem can only be solved when people can live in dignity, and in security, in the communities that have been in their homes for 2,000 years.”
“Christianity began in the Middle East. It has thrived in the Middle East, an it is not up to ISIS to decide where Christians are allowed to live.”
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)
“Persecution is so bad that many Christians have been forced to leave their homes and go somewhere else, and I agree with Brad Sherman on this that Christians should not have to flee their homes and the answer to religious persecution should not be to go somewhere else. That is not the answer to religious persecution”
Rep. David Trott (R-MI)
“We need to call attention to our allies and adversaries who are killing Christians around the world.”
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
“I think that most Americans out there in everyday America don’t realize the extent of what Christians are going through around the world, and it’s groups like In Defense of Christians that communicate that.”
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)
“Perhaps no where on earth are Christians as threatened today than in the land trod by the Apostles. Eleven out of the twelve Apostles became martyrs, dying for their faith in Christ. Today the blood of their spiritual posterity is still being poured out.”
“Tyrants and evil men count on the indifference in the world, and the fact that you are here shows that you’re not indifferent. So thank you for standing against religious persecution.”
Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA)
“The United States has always been a champion for human rights and religious liberty around the world. We need to stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East during these difficult times and use all the tools at our disposal to protect them.”
Rep. John Mica (R-FL)
“We need to hold people accountable. People have slaughtered Christians and others because of their faith. In our time and age we let them be unaccountable for it. And this is not right.”
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