As France Grants Asylum to Iraqi Christians, Rep. Wolf Slams ‘Silence’ in Washington

Patrick Goodenough | July 30, 2014 | 4:22am EDT
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An undated photo posted on a militant website in January 2014 shows the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters. (AP Photo, File)

( – The French government says it is willing to grant asylum to Iraqi Christians in the face of a jihadist onslaught against them.

“We are assisting displaced persons who are fleeing the Islamic State’s threats and seeking refuge in Kurdistan,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a joint statement this week. “Should they so wish, we are prepared to offer them asylum on our soil.”

In Washington, meanwhile, a leading religious freedom advocate on Capitol Hill slammed both President Obama and Congress Tuesday for their “silence” about the plight of Iraq’s Christians, which he said amounted to “genocide.”

“The silence in this town – in Washington – is deafening,” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said on the House floor. “Does Washington even care?”

After seizing control of Mosul and other areas in northern and western Iraq last month, the al-Qaeda-inspired jihadist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in mid-July ordered those Christians who had not yet fled to convert to Islam, pay a Qur’an-mandated tax levied on conquered non-Muslims, or be killed.

“The ultimatum issued to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat facing these people – who have historically been an integral part of the region – by jihadist groups in Iraq as well as Syria and elsewhere,” Fabius and Cazeneuve said in their statement.

“France is outraged by these brutalities, which it condemns in the strongest possible terms."

In his speech, Wolf highlighted the important place Iraq holds in the origins of Judeo-Christianity, noting that, after Israel, the Bible contains more references to places in Iraq than any other country.

He cited the lives of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as Esther and the prophet Daniel, adding that “Many of Iraq’s Christians still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.”

Wolf said top religious leaders had spoken out recently about the Iraqi Christians’ plight, including Pope Francis, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Coptic Orthodox General Bishop Angaelos and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Despite these Christian leaders speaking out about the systematic extermination of Christians in Iraq, the silence in this town is deafening,” he said. “Does Washington even care?”

“Where is the Obama administration? The president has failed. Where is the Congress? The Congress has failed.”

“Time is running out,” Wolf said. “The Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq are being targeted for extinction. They need our help. Literally, during our time, we will see the end of Christianity in the place it began.”

As reported earlier, the State Department released its annual report on international religious freedom this week, and once again overruled the recommendation by a statutory watchdog to designate Iraq as a “country of particular concern.”

See earlier stories:

Pakistan, Iraq, Vietnam Again Escape Blacklisting for Religious Freedom Violations

Flashback: Obama Urged Action to Protect Iraq’s Christians – in 2007

Iraq’s Vulnerable Christians Further Imperiled by Jihadist Advance

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