A Christian leader in the Iraqi community in eastern San Diego County is petitioning the government to enact a law granting displaced Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities facing horrific persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists a chance for new life in the United States.
Mark Arabo, an outspoken advocate for Iraqi Christians, is currently working to push the Nineveh Plains Refugee Act through Congress. The bill, also known as HB 5430, seeks to expedite the refugee processing for religious minorities displaced by the Islamic State terrorist group and exempt them under yearly immigration ceiling from the East Asian region.
“This bill is saying that these religious minorities under threat of genocide will not be underneath the realm of traditional refugee standards because their circumstances are so dire,” said Arabo, 31, who has assembled a list of 70,000 names and stories of displaced Iraqis currently persecuted by ISIS who are seeking refuge in foreign nations.
“The US and likeminded countries should open their doors,” he added. “This is not about giving them an extra sandwich, blanket or pillow. It’s about telling the world we’re giving homes to the victims of genocide. We’re going to treat this like we treated Bosnia, with resettlement as a top priority.”
Over the past several months, thousands of people fled cities in Northern Iraq when the Islamic State took over and demanded that Christians either convert, submit to their radical laws and pay a religious tax or face death by the sword.
Most fleeing Chaldean Christians sought refuge in Kurdish areas, where they get basic supplies and shelter but fear the approaching winter. At least 70,000 Chaldean families in the US are willing to sponsor and assist those who can come to the US, Arabo said.
“The American peoples voices have been made clear: they’ve opened their hearts, minds, and they wish to open their doors to the victims of this Christian genocide,” he added.
Arabo also believes the United States has a moral obligation to right the wrongs of the government’s foreign policy blunders in Iraq. Such blunders, he argues, include the initial invasion of Iraq and failure to attain a status of forces agreement, which set the foundation with which IS has thrived.
“We must focus less upon our political affiliations and more upon the humanity that is at stake in this tragic situation,” he said.
“I cannot live with the thought of us turning a cheek to a genocide of Christians. Our inaction can only result in the loss of more life. As America, we must ensure both safety and security for those left stranded by our inability to secure a Democratically stable Iraq.”
The Nineveh Plains Refugee Act has already gained bipartisan support from all of the Congressional leaders within the San Diego region including, Juan Vargas, Scott Peters, Duncan Hunter, and Susan Davis.
However, there is far more work to be done.
“Each individual should call their local Congressman or woman to ensure that this bill is passed unanimously,” says Arabo.
“This act is America’s chance at redemption, and for the religious minorities in Iraq, it is their chance at hope.”