Student Advocates for Displaced Minorities in Iraq

By: Candis Najor

The invasion of Iraq by ISIS, an Islamist extremist group, has displaced over a million Christians, a minority of the region. The fall of Mosul sparked enough anxiety that, for the first time in 1,600 years, there was no Mass in that city. One minority group in the region, the Chaldeans, have a significant presence in the United States, with over 300,000 in Michigan, California, Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio. Chaldeans throughout the country have formed close-knit communities, keeping much of their culture, and many still speaking their native language, Aramaic.

ISIS’s terror campaign is specifically targeting an area where many still have friends and family. Now, the Chaldean community and other
Middle Eastern Christians have come together to demand action. The organization, In Defense of Christians, hosted a summit in Washington D.C. in September to “create a forum enabling people…to come together in unity to protect the Christians of the Middle East,” President of IDC, Toufic Boaklini.

I traveled to Washington DC to attend this summit with a Chaldean delegation of 15 from Detroit and Chicago, and to advocate on behalf
of our community in Iraq. We lobbied for Senate Resolution 530, introduced by Senator Portman of Ohio. This resolution called for the creation of a safe haven in Iraq, timely processing of visas for Iraq’s fleeing minority groups, and requesting Iraq’s government to prioritize the protection of religious minorities.

The IDC Summit brought together Middle Eastern Christian Patriarchs, dozens of members of Congress, and leaders from around the world to
stand in unity, to demand action, and to let it be known to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East that they are not alone. Speakers at the summit included Representative Gus Bilirakis who said, “Let’s stand up…and let them know that the United States will not ignore their crimes against humanity.” 

Cardinal Leonard Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation of the Oriental Church, delivered the message that we are “in defense of Christians,
in defense of Jews, in defense of Muslims, in defense of Humanity.”

Community efforts and active lobbying in D.C. has created a domino effect of response. On September 11th the Middle Eastern Patriarchs and
Bishops met with President Obama to discuss the persecution and genocide of Christians in the Middle East. The following week, Senate Resolution 530 passed.    

Although a small step in the right direction, there is still a long road ahead. Currently, these minorities have taken shelter in Kurdistan, having no choice but to sleep on the floors of churches and schools. With winter quickly approaching, these people are in dire need of basic essentials.

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