Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

U.S. body on religious freedom expresses concern over targeting of Iraqi Christians

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan federal body, on Monday issued a statement expressing alarm over multiple bomb attacks against Iraqi churches and monasteries last week.

According to USCIRF, the attacks were directed at “Iraq’s shrinking non-Muslim population, many of whose members” have fled their communities due to the targeted violence.

USCIRF notes that: “At least six people were reportedly wounded in seven separate attacks in Baghdad and Mosul as Christians were celebrating Christmas and the Epiphany on Jan. 6; three days later, bombs targeted three churches in Kirkuk.”

“Iraq’s smallest religious minorities lead a very tenuous existence, and such attacks targeting them on religious holidays underline the specific and immediate threat they face,” said Commission Chair Michael Cromartie. “The Iraqi government must do much more to protect these minorities from violence.”

The statement adds: “The U.S. government should do more to aid those members of Iraq’s smallest religious minorities who have fled persecution in Iraq and who wish to seek refuge in the United States. The Commission has long recommended the establishment of a so-called “Priority 2” category for members of these groups, which would allow them to apply directly to the U.S. Refugee Program without having to go first through the process of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees. Such a designation does not necessarily nor automatically guarantee every applicant refugee status or resettlement in the United States, but it would acknowledge that Iraq’s smallest religious minorities face targeted abuses, speed up the resettlement process, and allow UNHCR to focus on other vulnerable groups.”

For the full statement, click here.



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