While the world is largely focused on the natural disasters that have wreaked havoc on the United States, Mexico, and Caribbean the last several weeks, Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East continue to face dangerous threats of persecution from the Islamic State and unfriendly governments.
This week, Fox News obtained photos of Christian and Yazidi refugees, many of them children, begging the U.S. government and President Donald Trump to not forget them in their time of need.
In March 2016, the House Representatives put forth a surprisingly united front when it unanimously voted (393-0) to declare the actions of ISIS against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.” In the days that followed the vote, then-Secretary of State John Kerry agreed with the House, telling the State Department that, in his judgement, ISIS is “responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.”
“One element of genocide is the intent to destroy an ethnic or religious group, in whole or in part. We know that [ISIS] has given some of its victims a choice between abandoning their faith or being killed, and that for many is a choice between one kind of death and another,” Kerry said. “Its entire worldview is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology. There is no question in my mind that if [ISIS] succeeded in establishing its so-called caliphate, it would seek to destroy what remains of ethnic and religious mosaic once thriving in the region.”
As a result of the genocide declaration from the House and secretary of state, some $1.3 billion was earmarked for humanitarian aid under the Consolidated Appropriations Act. While the intentions may have been nobel, Fox News reported that, over a year later, refugees and minorities in northern Iraq have barely seen a dime of the money, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act is set to expire this week, at the end of the fiscal year.
Humanitarian workers told Fox News that they hope the pictures of the children pleading directly with Trump and government officials will help raise awareness about the ongoing struggle in the region.
“I think it will strike the conscience to see the real faces of innocent children who need to be rescued,” Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer and Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said to Fox News. “When images of the Yazidis fleeing Mt. Sinjar were made public, it galvanized the [Obama] administration to go back with troops, food drops and other aid after our military had already pulled out of Iraq. We saw something similar with President Trump’s actions after the chemical attacks in Syria.”
On September 15, Catholic and Christian churches submitted a request to USAID for the immediate release of $22 million of the more than $1 billion allocated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act for immediate relief. Thus far, there has been no response from the agency, but Shea said the money is being held up because USAID claims to have a “religion blind” policy that prevents it from releasing funds to religious groups despite the statutory mandate. It should be noted, however, that an exception was made earlier this month to provide some $32 million in aid to the Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar.
“It is always good when people who are in danger are helped. But why is there a terrible disparity between our government’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma and the absolute lack of help for Christians in Iraq,” Shea told Fox News. “It’s not impossible to show that the U.S. can act quickly, as we saw with the Rohingyas. It’s not subject to bureaucracy or lack of inertia.”
(H/T: Fox News)