This Christmas, GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is promoting a bill he introduced in November granting priority refugee status to Christians and Yazidis– two minorities targeted for genocide by the Islamic State.
Rohrabacher, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a sit-down interview that the Save Christians from Genocide Act is necessary because the Obama administration refuses to recognize ISIS’s destructive actions against Christians as genocide.
The bill forces the Department of State to declare that Christians and Yazidis are targets for genocide, which is an important step to make the two groups eligible for priority refugee status.
The State Department has made some progress in considering Yazidis, a minority sect in Iraq, as a target of genocide, but has avoided the same conclusion for Christians, even though ISIS has forced Christians out of their homes, taken their property and massacred them in large numbers. One of the reported reasons for why the State Department is ignoring Christians is because Christians apparently can abide by Islamic law, unlike Yazidis. Christians can agree to Dhimma, that is, a set of terms enshrined in Islamic law, which results in extra taxation and explicit social marginalization.
But the tax is often very high, and ISIS has been all too willing to violate its side of the agreement, harassing and brutalizing Christians. ISIS regularly marks the doors of Christians with an Arabic “N” for Nazarene, to better classify them for termination. In just two generations, Christians may disappear entirely from Syria and Iraq.
A group of religious leaders recently sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him not to exclude the Christians from a finding of genocide in the Middle East. Up to this point, Kerry has failed to offer any kind of response to numerous reports and inquiries from religious leaders and groups regarding the State Department’s foot-dragging.
The vast majority of refugees to Europe have been Muslim. State Department figures indicate that of 2,184 refugees accepted from Syria, only 53 are Christian. Rohrabacher wants to ensure that Christians and Yazidis have a fighting chance to escape the violence as well.
But the bill has courted opposition, mostly as a result of remarks from President Barack Obama, who has rejected any attempts to prioritize Christians and Yazidis, as he believes that this approach is discriminatory.
“Our bill does not single them out. Our bill recognizes they have been singled out,” Rohrabacher told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“If a lifeguard sees some people who are drowning, he goes to those people,” Rohrabacher noted. “He doesn’t wade through the water and do his other job of giving advice to people about how not to drown. He goes out to save the people who are drowning. In this case, our bill is not aimed at giving preference to someone because of their religious faith, but instead our bill is aimed at trying to save those people who are most in danger. Trying to help someone does not mean you’re discriminating.”
According to Rohrabacher, the president stands directly in the way of the bill’s passage.
“The fact is the president made some scurrilous remarks,” Rohrabacher added, “namely that you can’t save someone in danger because if you try, you’re discriminating against someone else.”
For Rohrabacher, violence against Muslims in the region is categorically different from violence against Christians and Yazidis, since ISIS is specifically targeting the two groups for extinction.
“There may be other people being killed, but this is a concentrated effort on the part of these radicals to slaughter Christians and Yazidis very specifically.”
In early December, Rohrabacher called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to come to the aid of Middle Eastern Christians and Yazidis, saying the task is simply too great for the United States to handle on its own.
“The fact that Putin has declared Russia is going to play an activist role in the Middle East means that his activist role should not just be aimed at military activity,” Rohrabacher told TheDCNF. “Part of his role should be helping those people who are in danger, and especially those Christians who he has gone out of his way to identify with.”