Thursday, July 31, 2014
On Thursday July 31, 2014 , on the Capitol Hill and at the White House a unified delegation of Iraqi American Christian leaders, “Chaldeans, Syriac, Assyrians,” advocated relentlessly for the plight of Christians who are now facing beyond-brutal and viscous atrocities and annihilation by ISIS (ISIL) in Mosul and Nineveh Plain, Iraq. Members of the delegation were the following:
Joseph T. Kassab, Chaldean American. Michigan; Auday Arabo, Chaldean American. Michigan and Ohio; Nathan Kalasho, Chaldean American. Michigan; Labeed Nouri, MD, Syriac American. Michigan; Mark Arabo, Chaldean American. California. The delegation was also joined by: William Youmaran, Assyrian American. Illinois; Martin Youmaran, Assyrian American. Illinois; Steve Oshana, Assyrian American. Illinois. We are grateful to Dr. James Zogby, President and CEO, Arab American Institute (AAI), Washington, D.C. and Mr. Sam Yono, Chaldean American, Michigan, for helping facilitate the White House Meeting.
Due to urgent call from the office of the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Mr. Joseph Kassab was asked to speak at a Congressional Briefing. The day began in the early morning at the Capitol Hill by participating in the briefing session on the current situation of Christians in Iraq for ALL MEMBERS of U.S. CONGRESS called by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. The following panel of experts were selected to speak at this Congressional Briefing: Joseph T. Kassab with Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute; Professor Bob Destro with the Iraqi Kurdistan Christianity Project and Catholic University; Scholar Nina Shea with the Hudson Institute; Bill O’Keefe with the Catholic Relief Services; and Andrew Doran with the In Defense of Christians. The following questions and concerns of more than 10 US Representatives were answered in order for them to incorporate the information given in their proposed resolutions to the US Congress and to be better informed while voting on these resolutions. Members of our delegation were also actively interacting with all of the participants at the briefing: Is U.S. aid reaching the persecuted Christians? Are Christians receiving aid once they flee (food, water, shelter, medicine)? Are they receiving protection (if so, by whom)? Are there individuals thinking about how to resettle these Christians, instead of treat them as refugees?
Afterwards, the delegation visited the office of our friends and cause-supporters, US Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), to help ensure the passage of their resolution S-RES 530 to combat the persecution of Christians in Iraq. In addition, we are delighted to learn of the passage of Resolution HR 683 concerning the current situation in Iraq and the urgent need to protect religious minorities from persecution at the hands of Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), as it expands its control over areas in northwestern Iraq. We are grateful to Congressman Vargas (D-CA-51) and his colleagues. We will do more work to push for the Senate to do its part too.
Late in the afternoon, the entire delegation met with top advisors to President Obama at the White House presided by Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; Andrew Kim, Director for Iraq-National Security Council (NSC); Melissa Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director-White House office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships- Domestic Policy Council; and Rumana Ahmed, Advisor to the Assistant to the President (NSC).
This is the very first meeting Iraqi American Christian leaders present and discuss their people case with the White House since ISIS began its attacks on Mosul and Nineveh Plain, The meeting started with the delegation presenting the current, chaotic and dire situation for Christians in Iraq. This was documented with YouTube videos, photos, articles, and maps of the demographic distribution of our people in the area. We also provided a list of destroyed churches and statistics of the people impacted by the invasion and resulting occupation.
Our main discussion and recommendations touched on 5 important issues:
- Providing immediate humanitarian relief to those displaced and the refugees .
- Empowering our people and creating a bigger, better-equipped, and effective response force from the Kurdish and Iraqi army,
- Establishing a highly-protected area for Christians in Iraq,
- Helping in the resettlement of the displaced and refugees, according to their choice to remain or not remain in Iraq,
- Establishing a clear and decisive US foreign policy and the appointment of a US envoy to minorities in the region, including Iraq.
The meeting was productive and the officials promised to help the endangered Christians. This help is to become a reality over the next coming day. The White House officials are aware that the situation is going from bad to worse and that Nineveh Plain and the surrounding areas are threatened, and they want to see the central government and the Kurdish Regional government help. For the White House to assure us that they care about plight of our people in Iraq, immediately after our meeting a press release (see below) was put out on this meeting condemning ISIS atrocities against our people, encouraging the governments of Iraq and Kurdistan to assist and pledging to remain committed for helping Iraq’s minorities. Unfortunately, this important, engaging meeting spilled over into the time allocated for a Department of State meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk.
Today, follow ups on these important meetings and the implementation of what we asked for are underway. In addition, we are again preparing to meet with Senior US Administration and United Nations officials to press for more help to rescue the Christians in Iraq,