During a three-day summit on the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians and minorities organized by the group In Defense Of Christians (IDC), Alhurra’s Congressional Correspondent Rana Abtar conducted interviews with several members of Congress, addressing the plight of Christians, Yazidis and others in Iraq and Syria. In the interviews, the lawmakers addressed the urgency to act to ensure the safety of Christians in the Middle East and to respond to the region’s daunting refugee crisis. The following are excerpts from the interviews:
Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) urged Congress to act quickly and decisively to address the violence against Christians and all victims in the Middle East and elsewhere. “America, with the support certainly of Congress, is going to have to act to stop the persecution of Christians and any religious minorities around the world,” said Coffman. He attributed the persecution of minorities to the United States’ retreat from global engagement, saying “I think the persecution of Christians and other problems throughout the world are really a product of America in retreat. We simply can’t do that for reasons of our own security as well. I think America can be a force of good in the world and certainly [in] protecting religious minorities such as Christians against the incredible persecution that [they] are currently under.”
Representative Steve Stivers (R–OH) explained the steps the United States should take to protect the persecuted groups around the world. “First, we need to prioritize folks who are persecuted for their religious faith, to give them sanctuary here in the United States. Second, we need to project strength around the world,” Stivers said. In addition, he suggested that the president should “appoint immediately a special envoy for religious persecution…. We need to stand in solidarity with those folks, but also project strength around the world and make sure we use the economic information and military power as well as the diplomatic power of the United States to push for protection of those persecuted groups around the world,” he elaborated. Stivers made a point about the refugee crisis that challenges the world. “I think we should allow more refugees in. I think that is part of what America has always been, that shining beacon on the hill. It’s been the place where folks can come, and with open arms we welcome those folks and assimilate them into American society and welcome the things they bring to us, but also give them economic opportunity and hope and a place where they can celebrate and exercise their religious faith in the way they choose.”
Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI) commented on the reasons of the worsening conditions of Christians. “We have to look out for Christians who are being persecuted abroad, particularly the Christians whose situation has got [sic] worse since the American involvement in the Middle East,” he said.
Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) said that the Congress has to act to protect minorities because “it is putting a value on lives of not only Christians but other religious minorities to make sure that they have freedom and protection.” He added, “We’ve got to stand firm on that and be ones that are willing to not only talk the talk but provide that safety network.”
Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) suggested that the United States should be “providing real weapons to those in the Middle East we trust to be supporters of democracy, freedom, and human rights. And among the groups that we can ally ourselves with are those that are absolutely immune from the sirens call of Islamic extremism, and those are the religious minorities in the Middle East.” He went on to say, “We can’t leave the last remnants of Christianity completely undefended in their own villages and towns.”
Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA) said that the United States can do a lot more and “allow people who want to come to the United States to be processed within the country so they can in fact travel to the United States and stay here safely.
“The United States has to host more refugees. We have the ability to do it, we have the responsibility to do it, so we should do it,” he concluded.
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Contact Chams Eddin
Communications Specialist, Alhurra Television, Radio Sawa