WASHINGTON — Christians are facing genocide in Iraq while the U.S. government and the United Nations remain silent, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., charged on the House floor Thursday.
“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide. I also believe it is a crime against humanity,” Wolf said July 31.
“Where is the West? Where is the Obama administration? Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.”
The militant Sunni Islamist organization called the Islamic State has in recent months consolidated control over large portions of Iraq and Syria, establishing its version of a caliphate and imposing a radical interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) in its territory.
IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), took control of Mosul in June, when Iraqi government forces fled after a brief confrontation. On July 18, IS issued an ultimatum to Christians in the city ordering them to convert to Islam, pay a punitive tax called the jizya or be killed.
Thousands of Christians and other religious minorities fled the city, seeking refuge in villages in the Nineveh Plains outside of IS control and in Kurdistan, where the regional government’s Peshmerga security forces keep IS at bay.
In addition to Christians, IS militants have targeted Shia and Yazidi communities in the Islamic State.
Mosul is empty of Christians for the first time since Christianity was brought to Iraq by St. Thomas the Apostle nearly 2,000 years ago. Churches and monasteries have been looted and destroyed, and the homes of Christians and Shiites have been marked for confiscation.
Wolf accused the Obama administration of lacking the “courage” to protect the region’s Christians and told Congress to hold the administration accountable.
“A culture that fails to protect believers may eventually find that it lacks the self-belief to protect itself,” he stated.
“The Obama administration needs to make protecting this ancient community a priority. The Congress needs to hold this administration accountable for its failure to act.”
Wolf also demanded the United Nations “initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.”
His speech came soon after Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death in Sudan for alleged apostasy from Islam, was evacuated from her homeland. However, the key player in Ibrahim’s leaving Sudan was Italy, not U.S. influence.
Ibrahim’s death sentence had been revoked by a Sudanese court June 23, but she was re-arrested the following day at the Khartoum Airport.
She and her family were held for two days, and when they were released, they sought refuge in Khartoum’s Italian Embassy.
They stayed there until Italy was able to secure their safe passage to Rome July 24.
The family has since come to the U.S., where Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, has citizenship.
The Telegraph of London reported that the U.S. unsuccessfully sought Sudanese permission to remove Ibrahim to its soil.
But the Italian foreign ministry, which had been in contact with Sudanese officials for some time, secured her release without giving up anything in return.
Wolf is not the only public figure to have charged the U.S. government with silence in the face of such grave injustices.
In a July 23 testimony before Congress, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said the Obama administration failed to speak up during Ibrahim’s ordeal, even as other governments spoke out against Sudan for her treatment: “While other governments have called attention to Meriam’s situation, including the European parliament passing a resolution and the British government’s prime minister speaking out publicly, the U.S. government has been practically mute.”