Religious liberty advocates praised President Donald Trump for signing into law on Tuesday the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018, which will, among other provisions, fund organizations — including faith-based organizations — that provide humanitarian aid to religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq.
“After two years of hard work by religious freedom advocates, it was a jubilant moment to watch as President Trump signed the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act into law,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement. “While the Trump administration has been working to address the needs of those targeted by ISIS’s genocidal campaign, this new law will give another boost to relief groups, including faith-based groups.”
“Until recently, relief groups have been operating almost entirely on private donations,” said Perkins, who is also a commissioner with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“While a long road is ahead for these genocide victims — today’s bill signing reaffirms that they aren’t walking it alone,” Perkins said.
“This law is enormously significant,” Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and a former USCIRF said in a statement. “It legislates the humanitarian aid policy of the Trump-Pence policy, meaning it cannot be reversed by a future administration policy.”
“Politically, It signals the embrace of Congress for this policy and it creates a precedent for other situations of genocide,” Shea said, noting that even if the United States gave $2 billion dollars to Iraq, it may not reach the genocide victims.
“This is shameful,” Shea said. “Our aid programs there before the policy shift announced by VP Pence in 2017 weren’t just religiously blind (as the bureaucrats claimed) but tone-deaf, even hostile to these churches,” Shea said.
“I commend President Trump for signing this important bill providing relief and assistance to communities who desperately need our help,” Kristina Arriaga, vice chairman of USCIF said in a statement. “Through this bill, we send the message that those responsible for these crimes, including genocide, will not escape justice.”
Nahren Anweya, an Assyrian-American who is on the board of the Middle East Women’s Coalition, told Breitbart News that the Obama administration “turned a blind eye” on the plight of Christians and other religious minorities and praised Trump for signing the bill into law.
Breitbart News reported on Trump signing the bill into law on Tuesday:
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and former Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) spearheaded the passage of H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018.
“The future of endangered religious and ethnic minorities targeted by IS for genocide, and pluralism in the Middle East, will depend on help from the United States,” Smith said.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson represented the Knights of Columbus at the ceremony. This Catholic fraternal order has allocated $20 million to provide relief to Christians and other religious minorities, including $2 million to rebuild Karamles, a town in Iraq that ISIS had destroyed.
“With the legislation signed today, America speaks with bold moral clarity and political unanimity,” Anderson said.
The new law also allows the U.S. Department of State, in collaboration with other federal agencies, to conduct criminal investigations and apprehend individuals identified as members of terrorist organizations, and to identify warning signs of persecution and genocide, the National Catholic Reporter reported.
Breitbart reporter Edwin Mora contributed to this report.
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