Congress has approved a bill to aid Christians who’ve been brutalized by ISIS militants. The Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, also known as HR 390, mandates financial assistance be given to Yazidis and others who’ve been victimized by ISIS during its occupation of Iraq. The bill also strives to help with the prosecution of the criminals who’ve raped, displaced, and murdered thousands of religious minority members from 2014-2017.
Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, first introduced the measure in 2016 after he visited with persecuted Christians during a trip to Iraq. Smith reintroduced the bill again in 2017 with the aid of cosponsor Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California. David Curry, the CEO of Open Doors, a Christian persecution organization, commented about the recent development.
“I’m very thankful for Representative Smith because he knows the needs of these folks,” he said. “We’re glad to see this step taken, but it does take too long when it seems so obvious that a great crime was committed against these minority groups.”
The bill has been given to President Donald J. Trump to sign. Curry explained that relief can’t come quickly enough.
“We need to be rebuilding houses,” he continued. “We need to be securing the areas. In the Mosul and Nineveh valley, (agricultural) fields…have had mines put in them. Those need to be cleared. The water system has big pollution problems.”
Curry added, “The Western world doesn’t want an unending flow of refugees. Here we have Christians and Yazidis who want to stay in Iraq, they want to stay in Syria. The question is, how long do they have to wait?” Talking about the future, the CEO of Open Doors remarked, “We want to see an indigenous Christian community – that’s been there for ages and ages – to survive in Iraq and Syria, and then eventually thrive.”
Once Trump signs the bill, money will be released to aid organizations working on the ground with Yazidis and Christians. HR 390 will allow the United States Agency for International Development and the Department of State to provide “assistance, including financial and technical assistance, to support the efforts of entities, including nongovernmental organizations with expertise in international criminal investigations and law, to address crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes in Iraq since January 2014.”
This process will be accomplished by “conducting criminal investigations” and “developing indigenous investigative and judicial skills to adjudicate cases consistent with due process and respect for the rule of law.” The measure states that evidence will be “collected and preserved.” This evidence will be utilized during future prosecutions of ISIS fighters.
Smith informed Catholic News Agency, CNA, that he had the opportunity to see Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil. The New Jersey Congressman remarked that he found Warda’s work in this turbulent part of the world inspiring. Smith revealed that he felt it was vital to incorporate faith-based groups among organizations getting funds from the bill. Warda told CNA that Yazidi and Christian populations have been decimated since ISIS gained power in the region. While this radical group is no longer in control of the area, its Christians are still struggling due to the aftermath.
Warda stated that many people haven’t been able to rebuild their houses. In addition to this sad reality, few job prospects result in more people fleeing the area even though it is somewhat safe. Warda maintained that providing economic opportunities for young people is crucial to providing long-term security for Christians in the region.
The Archbishop said, “I’m a shepherd there. I have to really speak to my people there and tell them that it’s safe. It’s safe to be and to prosper at the same time. So, providing jobs. Helping and really realizing some of the economical projects for the young people, to help them stay and prosper in the area.”
Many of the Christians in the area have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Warda insisted that he would love to entice them back to Iraq. However, he admitted this task is “really difficult.”
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