Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) urged President Obama to immediately sign legislation passed by Congress to create a special envoy post to focus on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.
The House on Friday sent to Obama’s desk a bill, originally introduced in the Senate by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and passed July 10, to encourage the appointment a special envoy to promote religious freedom among religious minorities in the Middle East.
“Time is of the essence,” Wolf said. “Christianity as we know it is being wiped out right before our eyes in Iraq.”
The bill that was passed is modeled on legislation Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the only Assyrian in Congress and a Chaldean Catholic, first introduced in 2011. The two are co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, and led an effort a month ago to pressure Obama to do more to help Christians coming under attack in Iraq.
“Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries,” wrote the lawmakers, joined by 53 bipartisan colleagues.
Wolf gave three speeches on the House floor last week to raise awareness about the plight of Christians in Iraq, and plans to do the same every day this week.
On Friday, Wolf read a statement from Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, on the crisis unfolding in Mosul.
“We are currently witnessing an unacceptable widespread implementation of extremist religious ideology that threatens the lives of all Iraqi’s who do not fit within its ever-narrowing perspective. While this situation stands to eradicate centuries of co-existence and culture in the region it also threatens to significantly and negatively impact these communities for generations to come,” the bishop said. “If left unchallenged, it is not Iraq alone that is at risk, but the potential is intensified for the replication of this ideology as a viable and legitimate model for others across the Middle East.”
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has given Christians in the region an ultimatum to convert, leave, or pay hefty taxes.
“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide,” Wolf said. “I also believe it is a crime against humanity. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – more commonly referred to as ISIS – is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.”
“Where is the Obama administration?” Wolf continued. “Where is the Congress? Where is the West? More people need to speak out. More should be done before it is too late.”