Advocates with San Diegoâ€™s Minority Humanitarian Foundation are calling on White House officials to officially label Christians in the Middle East as victims of genocide.
Mark Arabo, president and founder of the organization, and spokesman Lundon Attisha met in San Diego this week with David Saperstein, the Department of Stateâ€™s ambassador- at-large for international religious freedom.
They expect a decision from the State Department by the end of the month.
â€œAmbassador Saperstein is visiting religious diaspora communities in the United States to discuss the range of efforts the U.S. government is taking to alleviate the atrocities committed by ISIL against members of those communities,â€ a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
Arabo on Tuesday said he applauds Ambassador Saperstein for his willingness to discuss the issue.
â€œThe Ambassador was aware of the acts of violence occurring against Christians and expressed the need for delicate urgency when confronting the subject,â€ he said in a statement.
â€œ(The foundation) expressed the pressing need to ensure that Christians are designated victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS. While the State Department has reiterated the fact that such a designation will not influence their handling of the matter, we see the label as one that provides both justice and responsibility to the massive atrocities occurring against Christians for some time now.â€
Iraqi Christians, also known as Chaldeans, have fled the Middle Eastern country in overwhelming numbers in recent years, escaping deadly persecution at the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS. Syrian Christians have also been targeted.
While thousands of families have fled to neighboring European countries, many Chaldeans have come to the United States and in particular to El Cajon in East County, which maintains the second largest Iraqi population in the country after Detroit.
Arabo has collected the names of an estimated 70,000 Christians who have been displaced or persecuted by the Islamic State.