By Elena Garcia
An independent federal commission on international religious freedom is calling on the U.S. government to “redouble its efforts” in protecting the religious rights and safety of Iraqi Christians
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wants the government to use Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting on Iraq as an “opportunity” to address the “grave situation facing that countryâ€™s Christians and other imperiled religious minorities.”
Since America entered Iraq in 2003, more than half of the Christian population in Iraq, an estimated 1.4 million, have left the country. More persecuted Christians have chosen to flee the country following a recent wave of violent attacks, including an Oct. 31 slaying of worshippers and priests at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.
The recent persecution against Christians only “makes clear” that the “countryâ€™s most vulnerable religious minorities remain in peril,” stated USCIRF in a statement Tuesday.
They “face targeted violence, including murders and attacks on their places of worship and religious leaders, intimidation, and forced displacement; they also experience discrimination, marginalization, and neglect.”
The loss of Iraqi religious groups, including Chaldo-Assyrian, Syriac, and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis, results in less diversity in the country and threatens the future of Iraq “as a secure, stable, and pluralistic democracy,” the commission asserted.
USCIRF has issued three recommendations for the U.S. government in securing protection for these communities.
First, the group wants the government to work with the Christian and religious representatives in Iraq to beef up military security for places where “these targeted minorities worship, congregate, and live, and work.” The U.S. government would periodically inform Congress on progress.
The second recommendation is for U.S. authorities to collaborate with the Iraqi government, Christians and public representatives from other minority groups “to establish, fund, train, and deploy representative local police units to provide additional protection in areas where these communities are concentrated.”
Lastly, the commission urges the U.S. development assistance to prioritize “areas where these vulnerable communities are concentrated, including the Nineveh Plains area, and that the use of such funding is determined in consultation with the political and civic leaders of the communities themselves.”