The Voice of America reports today:
In a new report on Iraq, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says religious minorities in Iraq face persecution. The commission, which recommends that the U.S. government designate Iraq a country of particular concern because of religious freedom violations, issued its findings in a news conference on Capitol Hill.
The commission says small minorities, such as Chaldo-Assyrian and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis, continue to experience targeted violence, threats and intimidation, forcing many people to flee to other areas in Iraq or become refugees.
Its report says these minorities are even more vulnerable because Iraq’s government has been unable to provide effective protection to religious communities or investigate violations.
It’s a complicated issue and the commission members disagree on how much the Iraqi government is responsible, or able to do anything about it. But this much is clear:
But it is the smaller religious groups, lacking their own militia or tribal structures, that have become caught in the middle of what the report calls a struggle between the central Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government for control of northern areas.
It’s been a problem all along that the Muslims of all sects have militias, but the Christians don’t. Thus they are easy prey. There was some talk a few months ago about forming Christian militias, but I guess nothing came of it. So unlike the vast majority of Iraqis, the Christians (and other religous minorities) are totally dependent on outside forces for protection.
The commission makes several proposals:
The commission recommends that a special U.S. envoy be appointed to coordinate U.S. human rights policy in Iraq, while other proposals are aimed at helping the estimated four million Iraqi refugees and the internally-displaced.
Commissioner Richard Land says these include expanding U.S. and Iraqi government financing for refugees through the United Nations, and urging U.S. allies to increase their assistance, along with another step designed to assist religious minorities.
“Amend the U.S. refugee admissions program’s new P-2 category to allow Iraq’s smallest most vulnerable religious minorities direct access to the program,” he said.
Four members dissented from the recommendation that Iraq, previously on the religious freedom watch list, now be designated a country of particular concern. They asserted that the Baghdad government’s actions, complicity or willful indifference in violations were not sufficiently established.
Commissioners emphasize there is no disagreement when it comes to the plight of religious minorities, saying the main difference involves the question of whether Iraq’s government has the capacity and willingness to act.
The commission’s main overall message for the incoming Obama administration is that the United States must keep religious freedom and other fundamental human rights at the top of the agenda.
It’s good to see attention given to the problem of the religious minorities, and the recommendation to give Christians and other religious minorities special status in the refugee program, something which the State Department has resisted.
But I can’t help wondering whether we wouldn’t help them more if our soldiers could arm and train some Christian men. I just can’t believe the Iraqi government has the will or the ability to protect the minorities. If the Christians want to stay — and some have said they do — they should learn to defend themselves. If they don’t do that, I think they’ll all end up leaving and these ancient communities, descended from the very earliest Christians, will be scattered over the earth.
Hat tip: Blulite Special