US Senator Portman forum focuses on Christian persecution in Iraq

Dear All,
Yesterday, as part of our advocacy mission, members of “Team Save Iraqi Christians” met Senator Port man in his home state/town Columbus-Ohio where he listened to a group of Iraqi Christians. The Team will works with US senators Port man and Sabena the coauthors of resolution S-530 to help pass the US Senate . The language of the resolution is concerning the persecution of Iraqi Christians and how to rescue them..

Port man forum focuses on Christian persecution in Iraq
By JoAnne VivianoThe Columbus Dispatch • Saturday August 9, 2014 4:51 AM

“To me, this is something that the United States needs to go on the record opposing,” said Sen. Rob Portman.
Farouk Matte said he was brought to tears when he heard that his sister and her family were forced to sleep on the streets after being turned out of their northern Iraqi home by Islamic State militants.
The Christian family was forced to leave behind everything — clothes, jewelry, cellphones, even identification and passports. They eventually found a church near the Iraq-Turkey border where they now sleep on seats and the floor, he said.
“I really cried on them,” the Hilliard resident said. “Because it’s something, you know? They just slept in the street. It’s really upsetting.”
Matte, 51, was among about two dozen people who gathered yesterday for a meeting at Calvary Bible Baptist Church in Westerville with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. Portman hosted Christians, most from central Ohio, who once lived in the Middle East to share stories of religious persecution.
More than 1.5 million Iraqis have been displaced by violence this year as Islamic State militants have seized control of nearly half of the country. The Sunni radical group has beheaded and crucified captives in its drive to eradicate unbelievers.
Yesterday’s event came about a week after Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced a resolution that condemns violence against religious minorities by Islamic State. The resolution urges President Barack Obama to help create safe zones for religious refugees fleeing persecution and to ensure timely processing of visa applications and work with Iraqi officials to protect such groups.
Portman said about 41 senators have signed on, and he hopes for full Senate support.
While yesterday’s roundtable was closed to the media, Portman said the gathering was emotional.
“Their family members are being given three choices: either convert to Islam; pay a prohibitively high fine, which they can’t afford; or face execution,” Portman said. “And, to me, this is something that the United States needs to go on record opposing.”
Yesterday, the United States launched airstrikes against the militants. At the request of Iraqi leaders, the Americans also dropped relief supplies to tens of thousands of Yazidis who fled to nearby mountains when the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq was captured. The refugees had been trapped for days without food and water.
Matte, a Syriac Orthodox Christian, has four sisters in Iraq, and all have been forced from their homes. He, his wife and their children left about eight years ago after being threatened because he treated both Sunni and Shiite Muslims as head of surgery at a Baghdad hospital.
Chris Long, president of the Ohio Christian Alliance, said the organization encourages the Obama administration, the State Department and Congress to speak out and address the humanitarian crisis. He encouraged those gathered, many of them U.S. citizens, to organize so they can lobby the government to act on behalf of their family members in Iraq.
Matte’s oldest daughter, Zena Aziz of northwest Columbus, said she considers the United States, not Iraq, her home. But she said she can sympathize with the people there and sobbed for three hours as she watched news reports this week.
While some Christian religious leaders in Iraq say Christians should not run away, she said, she wants her relatives to get out safely.
“Living Christians are better than dead Christians,” said Aziz, 24. “What I care about is them being alive. I don’t care that they’re enriching or keeping the heritage in some land.”
Information from the Associated Press, Reuters and McClatchy Newspapers was included in this story.
Joseph T. Kassab, MSC, BS, GC
Founder and President