‘Stop This Horror’ Says Visiting Congressman
by Weam Namou
This article was originally published by The Chaldean News http://www.chaldeannews.com/stop-this-horror-says-visiting-congressman/
U.S. Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska), a strong proponent of using the term “genocide” for what ISIS is doing to religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, visited with leaders of the Chaldean community on March 3 at the Sterling Heights’ Chaldean Community Foundation office.
Fortenberry said he is committed to getting the Obama administration to label what ISIS is doing in Syria and Iraq genocide. (Editor’s Note: A week after this meeting, the Obama Administration did in fact declare the situation a genocide.)
“What will happen if the term ‘genocide’ is passed?” asked Anmar Sarafa, president and CIO of Capital Management. “Will the U.S. ultimately provide protection?”
“This will bring awareness and raise consciousness on an international scale,” replied Fortenberry. “When you have the label of genocide, at least you have a gateway to possible policies that would provide protection and integration back into the society.”
In recent testimony on Capitol Hill, Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch and a research professor at George Mason University, explained that “genocide” actually means the destruction of people, which thus therefore improvises the entire human race. “Our conclusion as genocide scholars is that when lesser terms, weaker terms are used, it is a sure indicator of an unwillingness to act,” he said.
“As a result of this label, people will be able to potentially return to their rightful land,” said Fortenberry, adding, “I feel that the Nineveh Plains ought to be a safe haven so that Christians will be close in proximity and can easily return.”
Fortenberry has had a long interest in the Middle East. At age 18, he went to the Sinai Peninsula, where in 1973 Egypt, along with Syria, launched the October War, a surprise attack to regain part of the Sinai territory that Israel had captured six years earlier. His interest in that region, he said, along with the hype of the Iraq War, made him feel responsible to immerse himself into Middle Eastern affairs.
“The rise of ISIS – the eighth-century barbarity with 21st-century weaponry – has jarred our world and our country,” he said. “What we have to do is join our thoughts collectively to stop this horror, which is undermining our civilization and which is also tied to our national security. The way America works is that you have to engage and you have to engage in numbers.”
Joseph Cella, senior advisor at In Defense of Christians, applauded the congressman for concentrating on an issue that “shamefully has not been given its deserved attention.”
“The world is full of problems,” noted Frank Jonna, CEO of Jonna Companies, “What will distinguish this issue from other issues? What will give it the attention it needs?”
Fortenberry replied, “I was in the room when Pope Francis was given a small cross worn by a Christian man who was killed by a jihadist who told him to convert or die. The man chose Christ, his ancestor’s faith, and he was beheaded. His mother was able to obtain his body and she later fled the country. The horrors of what’s happening to the people have caused us, as an international people, to find ways to help them.”
Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and a Chaldean News co-publisher, noted that of the more than 2,100 Syrian refugees who entered the United States since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, only 53 are Christians. The rest are Muslim.
“There definitely seems to be partisan favoritism here, discriminatory practices against minorities,” said Manna.
“I have raised this issue with the State Department,” said Fortenberry. “But normally Christians don’t flee to refugee camps because it’s too dangerous for them. They usually go to churches and other safer places.”
“Do you believe that it’s our failed policies that put our brothers and sisters in the hands of these butchers?” asked George Brikho, a former Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Our foreign policy is exhausted and needs to be reset,” said Fortenberry. “There was a noble belief that Iraq would turn out different. Then we pulled out our troops, which I did not agree with, and created a vacuum. We have to think big, collectively and creatively, and this is starting to work. The problem is that our brothers and sisters are suffering in a faraway land.”
“If we topple [Syrian President Bashar] Asaad, not that he’s an angel, isn’t that going to be a lot worse for the people in that area?” asked Brikho.
“Congress rejected the president wanting to bomb Asaad for this reason,” said the congressman. “Asaad is barbarous toward his people, but if he’s gone, could that area be potentially worse? Do we want him to stay in power? No! Do we want him to successfully transition out of power where jihadists won’t be able to run wild? Yes.”
“Why hasn’t the evangelical community gotten involved in this?” asked Manna. “You don’t see them having that same passion for Christians as they show for issues concerning Israelis.”
Fortenberry advised the community leaders to visit evangelical sites and ask them this question, to see how they can come on board for this cause.
“Why aren’t the Muslim leaders, if they’re offended by how the world views them, rise up against ISIS?” asked Sarafa.
“There are people that try to do that but I’m in those circles a lot more frequently and have the opportunity to hear them,” said the congressman.
Fortenberry reminded attendees that the very source of our culture and faith is under threat so people have to work hard to restore it.
“All of you have a foot into two worlds,” he said. “You have a connection to your birthplace and you don’t like America to be beat up. The reality is that the world depends on America, but America will not tolerate you spreading political hatred behind our back and then saying, ‘We need you.’ Gratitude must be shown for what we’ve made and are willing to make for you.”