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10/16/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On Thursday, International Christian Concern (ICC) is teaming up with the International Religious Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill to host a major briefing for congressional staff on the enormous threat to religious minorities in the Middle East.

The briefing, entitled “The Ongoing Threat to Vulnerable Communities in Iraq and Syria – Challenges & Solutions,” brings together a panel of experts from International Christian Concern, Open Doors USA, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International to weigh in on the issue. Speaking both from firsthand experience and in-depth research on the region, the panel will address security concerns, needs for humanitarian assistance, and protection of these communities in the long-term.

Speakers include Isaac Six, Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern, Sarah Margon, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch, Sunjeev Bery, Middle East North Africa Advocacy Director for Amnesty International, and Kristin Wright, Advocacy Director for Open Doors USA.

The briefing is set to take place as concern for vulnerable communities in Iraq and Syria, including Christians, is at an unprecedented level. In early August, the potential massacre of tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi faith in Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) awakened the international community to the dramatic peril confronting religious and ethnic minorities in the region.

Ethnic cleansing, mass executions, kidnappings, and demands for religious conversion on the threat of death have been reported at alarming rates. Vulnerable communities, including women, children, and religious and ethnic minorities in both Iraq and Syria, continue to face ongoing threats not only to their religious freedom and other fundamental human rights, but to their very existence.

The scale of the peril to these communities is enormous. The conflict in Syria has continued for more than three years and has claimed at least 191,000 lives, according to UN reports. More than nine million people have been displaced inside Syria and across the region. In Iraq, more than 13,000 civilians have been killed in 2014, according to the Iraq Body Count report, and more than 1.7 million people have been displaced.

Amnesty International has highlighted how the targeting of minorities in Northern Iraq has resulted in “Ethnic Cleansing on a Historic Scale.” A report released on Sunday by Human Rights Watch also documented the explicit targeting of Yazidi women and children for forced marriages and forced conversion. Entire Christian towns have been emptied of their population; in Mosul, Iraq, all 45 Christian churches and institutions have been destroyed or occupied by ISIS.

Congressional staff members from dozens of offices are expected to attend, as well as representatives of other government agencies and the NGO community.

ICC Advocacy Director Isaac Six said, “The threats facing Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are urgent and widespread. It is imperative that the United States government consider these communities as it formulates its strategy for confronting ISIS and in crafting its broader Middle East priorities. Our hope is that this briefing will help drive U.S. actions towards ensuring the protection of fundamental human rights for religious minorities in the Middle East while also doing everything possible to ensure the incredibly diverse ethnic and religious fabric of Iraq and Syria is not completely torn apart by the horrific conflicts we see there today.” 

For interviews, contact Isaac Six, Advocacy Director: [email protected]

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, ICC is a Washington, D.C. based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.  For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.