San Diego’s Chaldean community pushes for asylum for Iraqi Christians

By Richard Allyn,
EL CAJON (CBS News 8) Hundreds of Iraqi-American Christians and their supporters packed the El Cajon Civic Center Friday evening, calling for an end to the brutal violence and merciless oppression that Iraqi Christians are now facing in their homeland.

“Our very community has been rocked to its core,” said Chaldean-American leader Mark Arabo, who is also national spokesman of the organization ‘Ending Genocide in Iraq’. “Christianity itself faces death throughout Iraq.”

Over this past week, thousands of Iraqi Christians, or Chaldeans, have been ousted from their homeland, forced to leave behind their homes, businesses and churches after the Islamic State terrorist group known as ISIS issued a chilling ultimatum: either convert to Islam, or be expelled.

“I lived it,” Chaldean-American Amer Moshi told CBS News 8. “I came here in 2009. I spent 24 years there (in Iraq), and I was abused verbally, physically every day.”

Moshi said that what his fellow Chaldeans are facing back home, is what brought him to seek asylum in the United States five years ago: religious freedom. “We were getting killed just because we are Christians. They were taking our homes, money, everything we own.”

As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate day by day, a new Congressional resolution introduced a couple weeks ago could provide much-needed help to members of Iraq’s religious minorities fleeing violence, persecution and killings in their war-torn homeland.

So far, more than a half a million people have been displaced by the current conflict in Iraq, as Sunni insurgents expand their control over the divided country, reportedly targeting, persecuting and killing Iraqi religious minorities, including Chaldeans.

“We want to make sure we protect, not just Chaldeans and Christians in Iraq, but the entire region, because it has global ramifications,” Arabo earlier told CBS News 8.

To that end, Arabo has been tirelessly lobbying Congress and other political leaders, helping to draft a new resolution introduced by San Diego Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas.

This proposed resolution calls on the Obama administration to expedite the visa process for members of Iraq’s minority groups trying to relocate to the United States and to increase the number of Iraqi Christians granted asylum in the U.S., without increasing the limit of 70,000 refugees in total granted asylum here each year.

“What we’re saying is, keep the 70,000 level – don’t issue more visas – but reallocate it so that instead of 10,000 coming from the Middle East, make it 50,000 or make it 40,000, just to give these children and families a shot to live,” Arabo said. “I would say that anywhere they are facing genocide should be prioritized.”

“This is a Christian holocaust in our midst,” he added.

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