NJ.com Article on Smith Trip to Iraq, ISIS Victims'Christian refugees escaping ISIS get visit from N.J. Rep. Chris Smith'
BY JONATHAN SALANT OF STAR LEDGER/NJ.COM -
"To my shock, they have not gotten support from the administration," said Smith, chairman of the House Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. "They need help."
Iraqi troops are trying to repel the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from the territory they control. The Islamic State has massacred Christians and others under their rule. The Christian community in the region dates back almost 2,000 years.
Last week, President Barack Obama signed Smith-sponsored legislation to provide new training and resources for the U.S. State Department to respond to attacks on religious minorities.
"Ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria are on the verge of extinction and other religious minorities in the Middle East face a constant assault from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria," Smith said after Obama signed the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, named for a former Virginia congressman. "The freedom to practice a religion without persecution is a precious right for everyone, of whatever race, sex, or location on earth."
At the invitation of the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of Mosul, Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, himself a refugee, Smith (R-4th Dist.) toured a 6,000-person refugee camp among other stops in the Kurdish region of Iraq. In all, about 75,000 Christians have forced to leave their homes and now live in the Erbil area, Smith said.
"In plain sight, they've been neglected," Smith said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Iraq shortly before he prepared to leave the country.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.)
Smith said he planned to hold hearings once Congress reconvenes next month to attention on the problem and encourage the White House to help.
Many of the refugees would like to return home when it is safe to do so, he said. In the interim, they need support from the U.S.