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New law will provide relief to genocide victims in Iraq, Syria

11 Dec 2018 – By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — President Donald Trump has signed into law the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018, which will provide humanitarian relief to genocide victims in Iraq and Syria and hold accountable Islamic State perpetrators of genocide.

“The legislation signed today again reminds us of America’s earlier efforts to aid victims of genocide — Christian communities targeted by Ottomans a century ago and Jewish survivors of Shoah,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a 11 December statement.

With the bill now law, “America speaks with bold moral clarity and political unanimity,” he added.

Anderson and other officials of the Knights of Columbus took part in a signing ceremony at the White House.

As chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services praised the new law, calling it a “critical” measure and “a signal of hope for the critically vulnerable of this region.”

The law enables financial and technical assistance for the humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of former and current religious minority residents of Iraq and Syria. The assistance may come through the federal government or other entities, including faith-based groups.

In addition, the act enables the U.S. Department of State — in collaboration with other federal agencies — to conduct criminal investigations and apprehend individuals identified as alleged IS members, and to identify warning signs of genocide and threats of persecution.

In Iraq, the number of Christians is below 200,000, down from 1.4 million in 2002 and 500,000 in 2013, before IS militants went on a genocidal campaign, according to figures provided by Smith’s congressional office.

Many of the remaining Christians in Iraq are displaced, mostly in Erbil in the Kurdistan region, and need assistance to return to their homes and stay in Iraq. Of the 550,000 Yezidis who remain in Iraq, about 280,000 are still displaced and also need assistance to return to their homes.

The U.S. House of Representatives on 27 November unanimously passed the measure, known as H.R. 390. The Senate in an earlier vote passed its version of the measure unanimously.

Before the House vote, Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said in remarks on the floor: “When genocide or other atrocity crimes are perpetrated, the United States should direct some of its humanitarian, stabilization and recovery aid to enable these groups to survive — especially when they are minorities whose existence as a people is at risk.”

“We should commit to such a response whether the victims are the Rohingya in Burma or Christians and Yezidis in Iraq and Syria,” he added.

Earlier that day, he said, he had met with Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, who told him: “Christians in Iraq are still at the brink of extinction. H.R. 390 is vital to our survival. If it becomes law, implementation must be full and fast. Otherwise, the help it provides will be too late for us.”

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