Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Congressman Jeff Fortenberry introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Oct. 5 a security resolution intended to protect religious minorities in northern Iraq.
“Much is at stake. Iraq and the region risk losing entire minority communities and, with them, the centuries-old healthy pluralism that played the quiet but essential role of holding people of diverse faiths together,” Fortenberry said in an Oct. 17 statement.
Assistance for Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and other communities victimized by the Islamic State must be combined with a plan for local security to facilitate the safe return of these minorities to their homelands, the resolution says.
The Christian and Yazidi minorities of northern Iraq were decimated by the Islamic State in 2014. Iraq’s Christian community once numbered 1.5 million, but today less than 200,000 Christians remain.
Fortenberry called on the U.S. government to “develop a coordinated and implementable plan for a stabilization and security mission in the region,” which incorporates local security forces and police units with “regularized national military structures.”
“Re-securitization is necessary to ensure the success of our humanitarian support for restoring the once-rich tapestry of ethnic and religious diversity that existed in the region,” he continued.
The Nebraska congressman traveled to northern Iraq last summer with USAID Administrator Mark Green and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, on a trip evaluating how U.S. aid money is being applied through multilateral organizations, such as the U.N., and assessing the situation of Iraqi minorities on the ground.
“Without a new security apparatus,” economic aid “will not be sustainable,” Fortenberry told CNA after that trip.
Christian and Yazidi communities in northern Iraq need security as they rebuild, he said.
USAID announced Oct. 16 that it is increasing assistance to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq by around $45 million. This new commitment brings the total amount in planned and active efforts in support of minority communities in northern Iraq to more than $239 million.
Last week USAID leader Mark Green met with Vatican officials to discuss development and recovery efforts in Iraq.
During the Rome visit, Green told CNA that he hopes USAID’s efforts are “strengthening the capacity of organizations on the ground for the long run.”
The hope, Green said, is to “continue to build up this part of Iraq, so that families say, ‘my future is here, I can live here, my children can go to school here, there will be the kinds of jobs that keep them here.’”
A young Iraqi Catholic, Safa al Abbia, participated in the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment as an auditor.
Al Abbia told the Synod bishops that the main challenge facing young people in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity.”
In his intervention, Al Abbia said that he will never forget the face of his friends who told him, ‘See you next week,’ after Mass. He never saw again because they were “burned under the fire of the bombed car.”
He asked for prayers for Iraq and said, “Don’t forget us because we have a wonderful group of young people that are steadfast in their faith, salt to the earth as Jesus said.”
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