by Lil Tuttle
International human-rights attorney Nina Shea discussed the Islamic State’s genocide against Christians and other religious minorities at the March Conservative Women’s Network luncheon.
Despite resistance within U.S. policy ranks, Secretary of State John Kerry this week “officially recognized that ISIS is waging genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shiites in the areas under its control.”
In an article at National Review, Shea outlined five examples of what the U.S. can now do “to focus and prioritize” State Department’s efforts to aid these religious minorities:
- Refugee-resettlement visas: Christians from Syria have been grossly underrepresented in the numbers resettled in the U.S. from that country — only about 60 Christians and 1 Yazidi over five years of Syria’s conflict have been given U.S. resettlement visas. … This defacto discrimination must end for these genocide victims, many of whom are too traumatized to ever return to their homes.
- Land and property restitution: These minorities lost their homes, businesses, and farms to ISIS, and others have not taken possession of them. Governments must be pressed to give priority recognition to titles of the genocide victims.
- A place at the peace table: Christians are currently excluded from the Syrian peace talks, at which, eventually, borders will be redrawn and constitutions drafted. Their voices need to be included, lest they be marginalized in, or even shut out of, whatever replaces the old Syria.
- Humanitarian aid: Many of these genocide victims are now displaced from their homes. They cannot seek shelter in U.N. camps, because those places are too dangerous for minorities—and therefore they must depend heavily on church and private relief. Even as donor fatigue sets in as the conflicts persist, U.S. aid programs must ensure that these genocide victims are not shortchanged.
- Reconstruction aid: If and when they do return to their homes after the defeat of ISIS, the genocide victims will need help in reconstructing their houses, towns, and churches. America’s reconstruction aid to Iraq after the military surge was largely diverted away from the Christian areas by national and local governments. The U.S. government must recognize the specific challenges facing these minorities and provide greater and more direct help and greater transparency and oversight on their behalf.
“These issues are urgent,” wrote Shea. “The situation on the ground is dire.”
Nina Shea is the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Click on the video below to view her full remarks during the Conservative Women’s Network.