Religious and Ethnic Persecution Continues in Iraq 22.Aug.2007

Facts reported to U.S. Commission

August, 2007 — If the targeted persecution and d! eadly vi olence against Christians continues inIraq, it may be the end of the presence of this ancient people who have inhabited that land formore than 6,000 years. That is the message the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council ofAmerica (CASCA) is voicing throughout the country and topic of discussion at the first of twohearings with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).As the bloodshed continues, witnesses gave dramatic first-hand accounts of life and deterioratingconditions for the Christian Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people in war-torn Iraq during the hearingon July 25.

"Together with the rising tide of sectarian violence, conditions for religious minorities and theassociated Iraqi crisis require heightened attention and more effective action by the U.S.government," said Michael Cromartie, chair of the USCIRF "That is why we are having thishearing."

Since the start of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the population of Iraqi Christians has beendrastically dwindling. More than 700,000 of the 1.2 million are either internally displacedseeking shelter in Kurdish Regional Province and Nineveh Plain cities or stranded inneighboring countries seeking asylum.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) first-generation American of Assyrian and Armeniandescent believes that there are significant factors that have contributed to the current crisis. Iraq'sreligious minority populations do not receive adequate development assistance. "Because theyrepresent such a small community, their voice in national politics is relatively weak," said Eshoo.Christians in Iraq are not armed. They are not protected by any militia, so they are easy targetsand clearly unwanted in Iraq by the Muslim extremist. Churches are being bombed, priestskidnapped and killed. Many Christians are being forced to convert to Islam, wear Islamicheadscarves, pay burdensome taxes or ransom money to Muslims and forced to leave theirhomes and bus! inesses with only the clothes on their backs.

The Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council of America (CASCA) is a non-profit organizationdedicated to matters of public policy and political purpose of the common benefit of the societyof Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people in Diaspora and those in the indigenous lands of Bet-Nahrain and Mesopotamia

Written by: Jackie Bejan

ESNA © EasternStar News Agency