Faith

What Lawmakers Said About Religious Persecution in the Middle East

And what the United States is going to do about this ongoing humanitarian crisis

There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid to Christian genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria, lawmakers on Capitol Hill said Wednesday.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation Tuesday evening in response to the killings by ISIS of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minority groups.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish religious minority group.

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“This legislation will ensure that those entities that are providing this humanitarian assistance — food, clothing, medicine, shelter — will get the money,” Rep. Chris Smith, (R.-N.J.), told reporters on Wednesday outside the U.S. Capitol. “A proper assessment would be done by the U.S. Agency for International Development.”

Smith and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D.Calif.) co-authored H.R. 390, known as the “Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017.”

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“The bill provides for accountability,” Smith said. There is a need to criminally prosecute perpetrators, the lawmakers added.

Related: Knights of Columbus Donates Millions to Fight Christian Persecution

“Last night, Congress had the courage to say the terrorists will not win,” Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, told reporters Wednesday.

Anderson’s Catholic fraternal organization has donated millions of dollars to aid Christian refugees in the Middle East.

“On May 9, 2016, the House passed Jeff Fortenberry’s genocide resolution 393 to 0. A few days later, Secretary of State John Kerry declared ISIS atrocities to be a genocide,” Rep. Smith said in a statement. “Despite this, the existential threat to Christians and Yazidis and other minorities continues to this day.”

In December, Smith took a trip to Erbil, Iraq, to meet with genocide survivors.

“We’re celebrating something today that we believe is going to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people who have been persecuted by ISIS,” Rep. Eshoo said Wednesday.

The bill provides funding for humanitarian aid on the ground in this war-torn part of the world.

“It is so essential to work with those that are on ground that know exactly where the dollars should go,” Eshoo said. The legislation allows for religious faith-based organizations to receive the humanitarian aid funding.

Related: Where Can the Persecuted Christians in the Middle East Go?

“After the Islamic State ravaged large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, religious minorities targeted for genocide fled into Kurdistan,” the Catholic News Agency reported.

“Vulnerable minorities in the Middle East, including Christians and Yazidis, are being systematically cleansed from their ancestral homelands — through forced displacement, violent assault, and even kidnapping and slavery,” Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a policy adviser with The Catholic Association, said in a statement.

The legislation will head to the Senate for consideration and, if passed, land on President Donald Trump’s desk.

“There is no reason for delay on this,” Smith said. “It’s not a complicated bill.”

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