Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Bishop Angaelos of the UK Coptic Orthodox Church, and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry discuss religious persecution issues at the U.S. Capitol.  

The Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus is a bipartisan Congressional Member Organization of the U.S. House of Representatives that serves as an informational and advocacy entity for besieged religious minorities who are central to a pluralistic, multi-cultural Middle East. The caucus is co-chaired by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA). Fortenberry’s district holds America’s largest number of Yezidi families. Eshoo, the only Assyrian Member of Congress, has long championed religious freedom in the Middle East.

 “The stability and cultural identity of the Middle East depends in part on its mosaic of religious minorities. As Co-Chair of this Caucus, I will continue working so that these great faith traditions can flourish in their ancestral homelands. Congress, as well as the international community, must promote their cause—a cause that is essential to civilization itself.” – Congressman Fortenberry

“As the struggle for religious freedom persists in the Middle East, our utmost vigilance to promote democratic values and protection for persecuted innocents in the region is required.” – Congresswoman Eshoo

In support of religious minorities in Iraq, Congressman Fortenberry sponsored the Nineveh Plains Resolution (H.Con.Res.152) to encourage support to the Republic of Iraq and its people to recognize a province in the Nineveh Plain region, and to promote the return of its displaced indigenous populations.  The Nineveh Plain and the wider region is the ancestral homeland of Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Christians, Yezidis, Sunni and Shia Arabs, Kurds, Shabak, Turkmen, Kaka'i, and Sabaean-Mandeans.  These diverse peoples lived for centuries in a spirit of general pluralism, stability, and communal cooperation despite periods of external violence and persecution.  The resolution urges the full restoration of human rights and property rights, and encourages the international community to assist in repair of infrastructure and establishment of local security forces so that minorities may return in safety, experience economic revitalization, and flourish in a diverse community.

As co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, Congressman Fortenberry and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo took leadership roles in sponsoring legislation resulting in a resolution Genocide Resolution (H.Con.Res.75) expressing the sense of Congress that the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.  In a show of broad, bipartisan support, the House passed the measure with a vote of 393-0.  The important designation of “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide” allows Congress and other U.S. government entities to pursue and enact remedies to provide expedited refugee assistance, to trigger financial sanctions on individuals or groups affiliated with ISIL, and to develop other measures to ensure justice for victims of religious persecution and punish perpetrators of genocide.

For more information about the Caucus, please contact