The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Tuesday to advance a bill, passed by the House in June, that attempts to ensure that humanitarian aid is directed at those minorities, including Christians, most affected by the genocide being waged by ISIS.
The bill clarifies that it is U.S. policy to” ensure that humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery assistance for nationals and residents of Iraq or Syria, and of communities from those countries, is directed toward ethnic and minority individuals and communities with the greatest need, including those individuals and communities that are at risk of persecution or war crimes.”
It instructs the State Department to identify “threats of persecution, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against members of Iraqi or Syrian religious or ethnic groups that are minorities in Iraq or in Syria.”
The State Department is also instructed to identify the “humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs” of the persecuted minorities and “entities, including faith-based entities, that are providing such assistance and the extent of U.S. assistance to or through such entities.”
“The vote from this morning is an important step toward providing relief for those victims of the genocide committed by ISIS,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) who introduced the bill in the House.
“The world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II is unfolding now in the Middle East...many of the region’s indigenous communities now face extinction...But their fate is not inevitable. The United States can avert this unfolding tragedy,” Smith told a House subcommittee when he was pushing for the bill’s passage.
The new legislation will help facilitate that government funding be provided to religious organizations on the ground that can directly aid minorities in Iraq and Syria.
“It is so essential to work with those who are on the ground that know exactly where the dollars should go,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), a co-sponsor of the original bill, said in June.
Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson testified in May of last year on the difficulty that Christians and other minorities persecuted by ISIS face in seeking official aid.
“Those who face genocide are a tiny fraction of the population,” Anderson said in a testimony before Congress. “They often must avoid official refugee camps because they are targeted for violence there by extremists. As a result, these minorities often do not get ‘official’ aid. This will continue to be the reality unless specific action is taken to bring the aid to where these minorities are forced to reside by continuing violence.”