If the targeted persecution and deadly violence against Christians continues in Iraq, it may be the end of the presence of this ancient people who have inhabited that land for more than 6,000 years. That is the message the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA) is voicing throughout the country and topic of discussion at the first of two hearings with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
As the bloodshed continues, witnesses gave dramatic first-hand accounts of life and deteriorating conditions for the Christian Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people in war-torn Iraq during the hearing on July 25.
"Together with the rising tide of sectarian violence, conditions for religious minorities and the associated Iraqi crisis require heightened attention and more effective action by the U.S. government," said Michael Cromartie, chair of the USCIRF "That is why we are having this hearing."
Since the start of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the population of Iraqi Christians has been drastically dwindling. More than 700,000 of the 1.2 million are either internally displaced seeking shelter in Kurdish Regional Province and Nineveh Plain cities or stranded in neighboring countries seeking asylum.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) first-generation American of Assyrian and Armenian descent believes that there are significant factors that have contributed to the current crisis. Iraq's religious minority populations do not receive adequate development assistance. "Because they represent such a small community, their voice in national politics is relatively weak," said Eshoo. Christians in Iraq are not armed. They are not protected by any militia, so they are easy targets and clearly unwanted in Iraq by the Muslim extremist. Churches are being bombed, priests kidnapped and killed. Many Christians are being forced to convert to Islam, wear Islamic headscarves, pay burdensome taxes or ransom money to Muslims and forced to leave their homes and businesses with only the clothes on their backs.
Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America
The Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to matters of public policy and political purpose of the common benefit of the society of Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people in Diaspora and those in the indigenous lands of Bet-Nahrain and Mesopotamia.