Bishop Dobbs: U.S. State Department Denies Visa for Assyrian Christians in Iraq Who Face Imminent Threats from ISIS

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By Isaiah Narciso (
Assyrian Christians
Children of a Christian family, who fled from the violence in Mosul two days ago, stay at a school in Arbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region June 27, 2014. (PHOTO: REUTERS/AHMED JADALLAH)
The U.S. State Department may have sent a signal to an Anglican bishop in Iraq that despite persecution and harassment from the terror group known as ISIS, Christians in that country will not find any support from the United States government.

According to Faith J.H. McDonnell of Philos Project, the Rt. Rev. Julian M. Dobbs, bishop of the Diocese of CANA East (Convocation of Anglicans in North America), revealed that part of U.S. foreign policy during an interaction with the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Dobbs made his case to the State Department on behalf of a group of Assyrian Christians who are desperate to leave northern Iraq.

“There is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation,” the State Department said.

McDonnell reported that the Assyrian Christians received both the permission and blessing from their own bishop to leave Iraq. Until recently, church leaders in the region have urged Christians to stay in the Middle East; now they have concluded that their chances of survival are much better if they left.

“Christianity in Iraq is going through one of its worst and hardest stages of its long history, which dates back to the first century,” Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said. “Throughout all these long centuries, we have experienced many hardships and persecutions, offering caravans of martyrs. Yet 2014 brought the worst acts of genocide against us in our history.”

Warda added that “Christianity as a religion and as a culture from Mesopotamia [ancient Iraq]” now faced “extinction” due to the ongoing threat posed by ISIS.

McDonnell elaborated on the plight of Christians and other minorities in the region since ISIS took over the Iraqi city of Mosul in June 2014.

“Christians, Yazidis, Mandeans and others were targeted for destruction, and within just the first week of ISIS’ occupation, more than 500,000 people fled the city,” McDonnell wrote. “The homes of Christians were marked with the Arabic letter ‘nun,’ standing for Nazarene. Christians were threatened with death if they did not convert to Islam, pay jizya and live as a subjected people – ‘dhimmi’ – or flee immediately.”

According to McDonnell, Christians have even been threatened by some Muslims in the refugee camps run by the UN Refugee Agency, or UNHCR. However, the State Department has refused to resettle affected Assyrian Christians in the United States.

“Donors in the private sector have offered complete funding for the airfare and the resettlement in the United States of these Iraqi Christians that are sleeping in public buildings, on school floors, or worse,” McDonnell wrote. “But the State Department – while admitting 4,425 Somalis to the United States in just the first six months of FY2015, and possibly even accepting members of ISIS through the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, all paid for by tax dollars, told Dobbs that they ‘would not support a special category to bring Assyrian Christians into the United States.'”

McDonnell contended that the United States government made it clear religious affiliation does not mean support for Christians in the region in the form of asylum.

“The State Department, the wider administration, some in Congress and much of the media and other liberal elites insist that Christians cannot be given preferential treatment,” McDonnell wrote. “Even within the churches, some Christians are so afraid of appearing to give preferential treatment to their fellow Christians that they are reluctant to plead the case of their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters.”

Assyrian Christians

Anna Enwia of Detroit chants ”Save our people. Free our land. Jesus is our savior. Stop ISIS now…” at a rally Friday afternoon at Daley Plaza where Assyrian Christians are protesting their treatment in Iraq and Syria. Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Such treatment by the State Department has even extended to Christian leaders in Iraq. According to a report on Fox News, the agency recently reversed a decision that denied a visa for an Iraqi Catholic nun who wanted to inform Americans of the persecution directed by ISIS against Christians.

“Sister Diana Momeka is a leading representative of the Nineveh Christians who have been killed and chased from their homes in and around Mosul by ISIS,” Fox News wrote. “Momeka, who has been likened to Mother Teresa for her work with the poor and persecuted, was turned down, she said, because she was ‘internally displaced’ in Iraq, and deemed a risk to stay in the U.S., where she once lived and studied for six years.”

McDonnell reported that the nun was able to testify in a full committee hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on May 13. However, the State Department refused to comment on the decision.

“All visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act and other applicable laws,” a State Department spokesman told Fox News.

Johnnie Wolfe, author of the book “Defying ISIS,” told Fox News that he advocated for Sister Diana when her visa was initially denied.

“People across the country raised a voice, including members of Congress and Senators, to put enormous pressure to change the decision. I’m glad she will be able to come and speak to leaders and the press, but it’s frustrating that it took thousands of Americans reacting in a significant way to make a sensible thing happen,” Wolfe said.

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