New 21st-Century Wilberforce Initiative, Co-founded by Frank Wolf, Issues Report on Looming Genocide for Iraq’s Minorities

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WASHINGTON—Former Congressman Frank R. Wolf and the newly created religious freedom group, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, released a report today entitled “Edge of Extinction,” based on a recent fact finding mission to Iraq. The report warns that if the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq is not defeated and removed, Christians, Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and other religious and ethnic minority groups face a looming genocide.

“If the Islamic State is not defeated and ultimately destroyed, there will be no future for these ancient faith communities who now face an existential crisis and genocidal onslaught in lands they have inhabited since antiquity,” Wolf said. “Their survival and ability to flourish is a bellwether for religious freedom and pluralism in the Middle East more broadly.”

The Wilberforce delegation travelled within 1.5 miles of the Islamic State frontline and later visited the inaugural training grounds of the Nineveh Protection Unit, a Christian defensive guard being trained to defend historic Christian villages and towns if and when they become liberated from the Islamic State. The delegation interviewed dozens of displaced Christians and Yezidis and met with senior KurdistanRegional Government (KRG) officials, religious leaders and humanitarian organizations on the ground. The delegation found that six months after fleeing the Islamic State’s murderous march through their lands, Iraq’s displaced religious minorities feel abandoned and they implore the international community to help.

“A decade ago, Iraq’s Christian population numbered 1.5 million,” says Wilberforce President Randel Everett. “Today, roughly 300,000 remain, and most have no jobs, no schools, and no places of worship. The Nineveh Plains had been one of the last relatively safe havens for Christians, Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and other minority groups. With the fall of Mosul and surrounding areas last summer, Iraq’s minorities want to remain in their homeland, but have no place to go.”

The full report with recommendations can be accessed at www.21wilberforce.org.

Loss of an important religious and ethnic minority has occurred in Iraq before. In 1948, the Jewish community numbered 150,000. Today, there are less than ten known elderly Jews living in Iraq. An oft-repeated refrain remains grimly germane: “first the Saturday People, then the Sunday People.” In the last decade, the Christian community has plummeted from approximately 1.5 million to 300,000. A group of leading Christian religious leaders representing thousands of adherents lamented:
           This is not just the end of Christianity but the end of our            ethnicity who have lived here for thousands of years. We            believe this is genocide. 
They continued:
           We do not have opportunities for education. We do not                have opportunities for work. We do not have                                   opportunities for healthcare. What is left for us? 
The Islamic State’s desecration and destruction of historic sites of religious and cultural heritage is unprecedented in Iraq. In Mosul, IS has turned an 800-year-old house of worship into a place of torture. Another church in Mosul that has existed for 150 years is being utilized as a prison, and yet still another is serving as a weapons storehouse.
All of the religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq face this deplorable reality. Yezidis note that this is the 73rd intentional targeting of their community. What has changed with the Islamic State is the speed and scope by which these religious and ethnic communities are being decimated.  The Nineveh Plains had been one of the last relatively safe havens for Christians, Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and other minority groups, but with the fall of Mosul and surrounding areas in the summer of 2014, Iraq’s minorities have no place to go and are nearing the precipice of total disappearance.
Immediate action including fresh policy approaches and targeted humanitarian assistance is essential if these minority communities are to be protected within their historic homeland. 

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Please direct press inquiries to: Lou Ann Sabatier, Communications Director, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, (703) 536-2643 office (703) 216-2941 cell Lsabatier@21wilberforce.org

Joseph T. Kassab, MSC, BS, GC
Founder and President