Fortenberry Speaks on Plight of Religious Minorities in Iraq
(Lincoln, NE, August 20, 2018) - On Saturday, August 18, at 7:30 PM, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) spoke to an audience of over 300 about the plight of religious minorities in Northern Iraq at the 24th annual Go Big Red Night in the social hall of St. John the Baptist Parish Knights of Columbus Council 10305 in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. Fortenberry recently returned from Northern Iraq, where, at the request of Vice President Mike Pence, he assessed the situation on the ground for Christians and other religious minorities and evaluated America’s initial aid package to the region. Fortenberry was joined by Administrator Mark Green of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. Their trip included intense discussions with Iraqi religious leaders, international aid workers, displaced children, U.N. personnel, and U.S. military leadership.
Fortenberry and his colleagues were responding to reports in June that existing support efforts did not have their intended effect. Christians in Iraq used to total 1.5 million. Now, in the wake of ISIS, only a few hundred thousand remain. Approximately 400,000 Yazidis are now internally displaced persons living in tent structures. 3500 Yazidi women remain as ISIS sex slaves. “At this point, America has given so much, lost so much in Iraq, it is hard to understand why engagement is ongoing and necessary,” Fortenberry said. “Yet, much is still at stake, especially for beleaguered minorities hanging on for their very survival,” he added.
At the end of his remarks, Fortenberry presented the Knights of Columbus with an altar stone from the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mart Adda, in Karamless, Iraq. The church was attacked and desecrated by ISIS. The nationally recognized Fort Calhoun Knights have been active in the region, having raised over $150,000 to help with the reconstruction of several homes in Karamdes, a mostly Christian town in the Nineveh Plain of northern Iraq.
Also in attendance Saturday was Rula Jabbour, daughter of Syrian refugee Gabriel Jabbour, who fled his ancestral homeland before he was to be executed by ISIS for being a Christian.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is a Member of the House Appropriations Committee and is Chairman of its Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. He is also the co-chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus.