Nearly 100 legislators from 15 countries around the world have urged President Obama to act on behalf of Iraq's besieged Christians. The organisers hope that other legislators will add their names. Many thanks to Lord Alton for sending this to us. The letter is now at the White House and will today be presented in original to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who has agreed to discuss the letter with the president. The letter follows:
Dear Mr President,
As deeply committed legislators and members of parliaments from around the world, we are writing to express our concern about the ongoing persecution of religious minorities in Iraq and the wider Middle East. We do appreciate additional high-level attention and resources devoted to mitigating the ongoing and egregious persecution of Christians and other minority religious communities in Iraq, and wish to convey our pressing interest in assisting with increased efforts to reverse this devastating trend. Christians are rapidly becoming extinct in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries and this development is not in the interest of peace and stability in this troubled region.
As anyone involved with international security efforts in Iraq well knows, the severity of the persecution of the Christian community in Iraq , which has for centuries served an important stabilizing role both in economic and political terms, threatens not only that ancient community, but the entire foundation of Iraq 's civil democracy. Efforts to help establish and protect that democracy have cost many of our countries dearly, and these sacrifices bear silent witness to the urgency of our desire to work with you to take our mutual efforts to a new level. But it is imperative that the United States takes a leadership role in this regard.
A thriving and actively engaged Iraqi Christian community is vital to assuring the future stability of Iraq, and its presence or absence will bear heavily on future prospects for stability throughout the Middle East . We are convinced that one indispensible measure of the success of years of grueling effort to help stabilize Iraq, and indeed Iraq's very survival as a pluralistic democracy, is the extent to which Christian and other minority religious communities are able to live and move freely without constant fear of intimidation and brutal violence. This especially concerns the freedom to worship and the freedom to express their faith publicly.
We fully appreciate all efforts, often undertaken in the midst of arduous circumstances, which are currently underway to bring relief to hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and those that continue to flee their homeland at record pace to find safe refuge from terrorist attacks. However, we remain gravely concerned about the vulnerable survivors of numerous and ongoing attacks on churches, including the most recent assault on Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad, and the families devastated in October 2008 when more than 1.5 million people who were forced to evacuate from Mosul pursuant to attacks on Christians there. We are also horrified by gruesome accounts of gunmen who have broken into Christian homes to kill civilians, as well as reports of elderly Christians found strangled to death in their own homes. It is staggering to think that half of all Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their country since 2003. And the exodus continues with thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing their country on a weekly basis.
Given the newly evolving political dynamics following recent elections and the ongoing transition of security responsibilities, we are eager to lend our voices and resources to help protect Iraq's vulnerable minority religious communities during this fragile interim period. We are committed to working together to help ensure that our governments boost the effectiveness of mutual cooperation to defuse the ongoing crisis on the ground, and urge you and other heads of state to push the Iraqi government to prioritize and implement a strategy aimed at protecting Iraqi citizens of all religions and offer them a real future in the country. We look forward to working with you to successfully augment existing efforts to investigate religiously-motivated violence and human rights abuses, deter and disrupt attacks, protect vulnerable persons and communities, and vigorously prosecute those responsible for criminal offenses.
The United States has a unique leadership role in furthering the cause of religious freedom in Iraq and the whole of the Middle East. Please be assured of our commitment to assisting in any and all appropriate actions to secure immediate, united, transparent, and lasting relief for Iraq's devastated Christian and other minority religious communities.
Signed by 94 legislators from 15 nations (For a list of the names please e-mail ICN - it is too long to publish here).
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