Religious leaders and human rights activists are rejoicing after President Donald Trump signed a bill that supporters say will “boost” efforts to help Christians and other religious minorities victimized by the Islamic State’s genocide in Iraq and Syria.
Surrounded by religious leaders and respected religious freedom advocates, Trump signed on Tuesday the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, bipartisan legislation that has taken nearly two years to pass in order to ensure support for religious minorities displaced in Iraq and Syria and accountability for IS terrorists responsible for the genocide.
“We hope that this will mean that we will now begin a time of sustained and clear help to our struggling minorities and also that we will see a focus on true justice and accountability for what has happened,” Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, whose archdiocese is responsible for aiding thousands of Christians displaced in Kurdistan, told The Christian Post.
The act authorizes the government to fund nonprofits, charities and NGOs — including faith-based groups — who are on the ground in Iraq and Syria directly involved in providing humanitarian and recovery aid to Christians and other religious minorities targeted by the terrorist group.
The act will also direct the U.S. government to address humanitarian needs that could drive the persecuted communities out of their homelands despite the fact that IS strongholds have been liberated. Additionally, the State Department will assist entities and NGOs that are looking to hold IS terrorists accountable through criminal investigations and the perseverance of evidence.
The bill’s signing comes as concerns had been raised earlier this year that Christian communities in Iraq were still struggling to receive aid from the U.S. government despite vows from Vice President Mike Pence to deliver much-needed aid to these communities.
Warda was among the many religious leaders invited to the Oval Office for the signing ceremony. He stood directly to the right of Trump in the Oval Office when the bill was signed and was given the pen Trump used to sign the bill.
“I have to say I found him very easygoing and approachable,” Warda wrote in response to email questions. “I said to him ‘Mr. President, we need to implement this bill as soon as possible and I know you can do it because you are a man who gets things done.’ He answered me directly ‘We will.’”
The bill was reintroduced in the House by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, an outspoken advocate for international religious liberty, in January 2017 after it failed to pass in the previous Congress.
It passed unanimously through the Senate in October and unanimously through the House in late November.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith