The Pope used his Christmas Day blessing, "Urbi et Orbi," to draw attention to displaced children and adults in the Middle East "who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict," he said, in a reference to the Syrian civil war and increased instability in Iraq with the rise of ISIS.
The pontiff appealed for compassion for refugees "so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigors of winter."
There was someone in the US Congress who led on the issue of the Iraqi refugees but he passed away: Senator Ted Kennedy. The issue has struggled for attention since the death. In the December 17th snapshot, we noted an open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, today led a bipartisan effort calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to assist religious minorities facing persecution in Syria and Iraq, such as Christians and Yazidis, to find refuge in the United States. The Senators also urged the State Department to provide these minorities with better access to U.S. humanitarian aid.
“The oppression of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq has led to an unspeakable humanitarian crisis,” Wicker said. “Tens of thousands have had to flee their homes to seek sanctuary from the Islamic State – whose savage treatment of these people is well-documented. The United States has historically protected minorities facing similar circumstances. We should do so again now.”
“We have an obligation to stand up for human rights,” Brown said. “The U.S. has pledged humanitarian assistance for relief in Iraq and Syria, and that should include refugee assistance for persecuted religious minorities facing persecution.”
The Senators’ letter specifically calls for “the creation of a Priority 2 (P-2) group under the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for religious minorities from Iraq and Syria.”
This new classification would provide a process for Christians, Alawites, Druze, Yazidis, and others to be considered for resettlement in the United States. In the past, this designation has been used for groups of humanitarian concern, including religious minorities from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, and Iran.
Wicker and Brown were joined in their letter by Senators Dan Coats, R-Ind., Carl Levin, D-Mich., James Inhofe, R-Okla., John Thune, R-S.D., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
The full text of the letter:
December 16, 2014
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We write to encourage you to take expeditious action to protect Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities from the unprecedented level of violence in Iraq and Syria.
The creation of a Priority 2 (P-2) group under the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for religious minorities from Iraq and Syria would provide a structured process for Christians, Alawites, Druze, Yazidis, and others to be considered for resettlement in the United States. This designation has been used for groups of humanitarian concern, including religious minorities from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, and Iran. Although the Administration has announced that it will create more places for Syrian refugees, we have not stated that religious minorities such as Christians will be considered for admission to the United States.
Religious minorities also have difficulty accessing humanitarian assistance due to the hostility and discrimination that they face from other citizens, including other refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has acknowledged that religious minorities avoid camps for this reason. As such, we encourage you to direct the U.S. Agency for International Development to ensure that religious minorities have sufficient access to the nearly $2 billion in aid that the United States has pledged for humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq and Syria.
Religious cleansing has reached historic levels in the Middle East. Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian rebels, and terrorist groups have targeted religious minorities for violence. In Iraq, Christians, Yazidis, and Mandeans have lived in fear of terrorist groups for the last decade. Now, the brutal Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has openly vowed to end the existence of religious minorities in the Middle East. Accordingly, we urge you to act swiftly to help protect religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Thank you for your consideration.
Senator Roger Wicker
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Dan Coats
Senator Carl Levin
Senator James Inhofe
Senator John Thune
Senator Marco Rubio
Senator Rob Portman
Senator Mark Kirk
Neither Kerry nor the State Dept has offered a response.
Which really isn't surprising because they refused to respond publicly to a letter from last June.
That open letter to John Kerry was from Refugees International and the following signed it:
Alliance for Baptists
Alliance for Peacebuilding
Amnesty International USA
Catholic Relief Services
Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Church World Service
Community of Christ
EPIC: Education for Peace in Iraq Center
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Heartland Alliance International
Human Rights Watch
International Medical Corps
International Orthodox Christian Charities
International Rescue Committee
Iraqi Research Foundation for Analysis and Development
Life for Relief and Development
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Council of Churches, USA
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Open Doors USA
Pax Christi International
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Peace Alliance
Save the Children
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas-Institute Justice Team
Student Peace Alliance
Veterans for Common Sense
Zakat Foundation of America
Again, there was no public response and there certainly were no efforts to aid or assist Iraqi Christians.
It's not surprising because Christmas means nothing to the Kerry State Dept but a day off.
Go to the webpage, go to the Twitter feed, search in vain for a holiday message.
You won't find it.
When Ramadan rolls around?
The State Dept goes into high gear (Kerry: "And we are celebrating the holiest month of the Muslim calendar year, Ramadan. It is a time for peaceful reflection and for prayer. It is a time for acts of compassion and charity. . . .")
I'm not Muslim. I'm not Christian. I'm not Jewish. Et al.
I have no personal axe to grind or grudge to work.
But as someone who practices no religion, I do feel I can point out that the US State Dept is failing Iraqi Christians and they're failing Christians period with their stupidity in celebrating some religions while ignoring others.
And I want to be clear on this point: My criticism is aimed solely at the State Dept.
There is much made (still) that Barack is a secret Muslim.
I've never believed that.
But whatever he is, he's someone whose White House notes the religious holidays of multiple religions.
The White House posted Christmas photos this month, they do the Easter celebrations, etc.
The previous Secretary of State was Hillary Clinton and let's note her State Dept wasn't averse to Christmas, nor was she. She noted it in the US as well as while on the road in other countries (such as Ireland).
It's only John Kerry's State Dept that struggles.
And I'll hear all about what a "low blow" my writing this was (hear from State Dept friends).
I really don't give a damn.
I will gladly tie this into the lack of respect and dedication the State Dept currently shows Iraqi Christians.
They continue to suffer and the State Dept ignores it and doesn't even make a point, under Kerry, to hold press conferences noting how many Iraqi refugees were granted admission.
Some of the Tweets today on Iraq and Christmas:
Iraq's Christians observe somber Christmas http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=353438540 …
Sayid Ammar al-Hakim (head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) giving a Christmas speech at a church in
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