America Must Stand with the Chaldean People

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Since first coming to America in the early 1900s, Chaldeans have contributed to the diversity, culture and economic prosperity of all sectors across Southeast Michigan. They have brought their tenacious work ethic and strong family foundations to communities all across the Great Lakes State. From opening up various businesses in underserved areas to establishing schools, churches, scholarships and community centers, Chaldeans have embodied all the attributes of the American dream, and have become one of America’s greatest success stories.

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to get to know this important community and see firsthand their significant contributions to our area. Having lived my entire life in Southeast Michigan, I have been fortunate to get to know many Chaldeans as neighbors, colleagues and friends.

That is why, like many Americans, I am deeply concerned for the vulnerable minorities in the Middle East who continue to face religious persecution for their beliefs. For over 2,000 years, Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians have survived various Persian wars, forced conversion attempts, aggression from the Ottoman Empire, and countless ethnic conflicts. Their efforts to preserve their identity and culture have been heroic, but the current situation in Iraq has collapsed so rapidly that it’s become increasingly evident that these indigenous minorities need America to stand with them.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has shown a lackluster response to the advance of ISIS in Iraq. Initially, President Obama dismissed the threat of ISIS and went as far as calling them “JV.” Now months later, we see the terrorist group controlling large portions of Iraq as they brutalize innocent civilians and indigenous religious minorities. Even former Democratic President Jimmy Carter has been critical of Obama’s slow response to the deteriorating situation, stating “we waited too long” before moving against ISIS.

Yet where the Administration has failed, Chaldean Americans have taken the lead in the humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq. Through various outreach events, locally based non-profit organizations have been able to successfully raise millions of dollars to help aid their family members back home, even providing aid to other religious minorities like the Yezidis, who don’t have as strong of a diaspora presence — a true sign of leadership.

To help the community’s relief efforts, I lead an effort in Congress to ensure our locally based relief organizations are able to avoid government red tape and be able to deliver their services quicker to those who need it most. With the current situation in Iraq growing progressively worse, bureaucratic slowdowns from Washington only compromise our ability to help as many people as we can.

While the long-term goal should always be a protected, safe haven in the Nineveh Plains, our focus must remain on the relief efforts and showing that America stands with the indigenous people of the Middle East. This effort has been one of my priorities during my first months in Congress and I remain committed to pressing for solutions that help the Chaldean people.

Having just returned from Armenia to commemorate the centennial of the 1915 genocide, I have seen firsthand how devastating international inaction can be. The Armenians weren’t just targeted for their ethnicity, but like many of the Chaldeans, Assyrians and Syriac Christians in Iraq today, they were also targeted for their faith.

It’s crucial that the American people don’t forget the plight, persecution and sacrifice of Iraq’s Chaldeans. We must continue to stand with the Chaldean people both here in America and in their indigenous homeland. Our nation and our government cannot let their oppression become unnoticed and forgotten. Like the great Coptic Pope Shenouda so famously said, we must “remember those who have no one to remember them.”

U.S. Congressman Dave Trott, a Republican, represents Michigan’s 11th District (northwestern Wayne and southwest Oakland counties).

POSTED IN GUEST COLUMNS, JUNE 2015

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