Dozens of House legislators from both sides of the aisle signed onto a letter asking President Barack Obama to intercede on behalf of persecuted Iraqi Christians during his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today.
According to The Washington Examiner, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) wrote the president on behalf of his colleagues to ask him to speak up for Christians and other religious minorities that are being savagely attacked by Muslim extremist groups within Iraq.
“The Iraqi Government needs to understand that the protection and preservation of these communities will be a key component of our future bilateral relations and critical to our alliance, given its own centrality to our own basic values,” Wolf wrote.
The letter goes on to remind the president that a 2004 commission found that Christians are suffering horrendous violence such as rapes, beheadings and bombings.
“Too often, attacks of the sort described above are not adequately investigated, prosecuted, or punished, fostering a deadly climate of impunity,” the letter said.
House members want Obama to raise the issue in his meeting with al-Maliki today and obtain some surety that Iraqi Christians and other minorities will be safe in years to come.
The U.S. troop withdrawal has left Iraqi Christians wondering what will become of them now that their only line of defense is pulling out.
Sabha Basheer lost her husband when Sunni insurgents kidnapped him, beat him and choked him to day, for no other reason than because he was Christian.
“We are glad that Saddam is gone,” she told CBN.com, “but I must tell you that at least we felt safe back then. No one ever dared to attack us. Now we are being killed.”
An Iraqi Christian activist named George Mayah described what has been going on in Iraqi since the war started in 2003 is nothing short of “ethnic cleansing.”
“There are people and groups behind the scenes that we cannot see who want to tdrive the Christians out of Iraq,” he said. “This is nothing short of an ethnic cleansing of a specific group of people.”
What was once a thriving minority of 1.2 to 1.4 million Christians has now been reduced to 500,000, with many believing that number is optimistic.
Since the war in Iraq began, over 500 Christians have been killed in religious and/or politically motivated conflicts, cites the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference in a report released earlier this year.
“Between 2006 and 2010, 17 Iraqi priests and 2 Iraqi Bishops were kidnapped in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk. Many were held for days; some for weeks. All were beaten or tortured by their kidnappers. Most were released, but one bishop, four priests and three sub-deacons were killed. In most cases, those responsible for the crimes stated they wanted Christians out of Iraq,” the report states.
In addition, more than 66 churches have been attacked for bombed since 2004, as have two convents, one monastery and a church orphanage.
As a result, some Christians have formed their own militias, such as the Christians living in a tiny village outside Mosul where the faithful have taken an oath to protect their fellow believers.
“We are not like other militias that have sprung up across Iraq,” Bashir Saalem explained to CBN.com. “We don’t go out killing people and causing chaos. We stand here with our guns just to protect our people.”
“The terrorists want to kill us Christians,” said Abu Mahath, one of Saleem’s fellow militiamen. “If we don’t defend ourselves, who will?”
For these reason, lawmakers are urging the President not to forgo an opportunity to gain some much needed concessions from al-Maliki on behalf of embattled Iraqi Christians.
“We urge you to raise the plight of Iraq’s besieged ethno-religious communities,” the lawmakers said, “and press the Iraqi government to take concrete steps to ensure the long-term survival of these ancient faith communities as U.S. troops depart the country.”
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