A bill that would to provide emergency aid for Christians and other victims of genocide in Iraq and Syria was advanced by a Senate committee vote earlier this week, and a congressman who sponsored the legislation says the lack of action by the U.S. so far is "incomprehensible."
House Resolution 390, also called the Iraq and Syria Relief and Accountability Act, is meant to "provide emergency relief to victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq and Syria, to provide accountability for perpetrators of these crimes and for other purposes," as the latest version reads online.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., passed the U.S. House in June, but had to wait until Tuesday for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote for the bill to advance it out of committee so that it can go to the floor for a vote.
A summary for the bill further states that if passed, it will encourage other nations to add identifying information about people suspected to have been involved in genocide. It also calls on the attorney general to identify any gaps in U.S. law "so the American justice system can prosecute foreign perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes present in the U.S."
Smith said Tuesday's vote gives hope to the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil, which has hosted Christian victims of the Islamic State terror group for years.
"Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda has been sustaining more than 95,000 Christians who escaped ISIS — almost one third of Christians remaining in Iraq," Smith said, according to Catholic News Agency.
"It is incomprehensible that the U.S. has not done more to help," he added, noting that "lives are depending upon it."
IS has been beheading, kidnapping, enslaving, and torturing Christians ever since it began its genocidal campaign in Iraq and Syria back in 2014, forcing millions to flee their ancestral homelands.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration recognized the gravity of the situation back in August, when the State Department released its annual International Religious Freedom Report.
"ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and death. ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled," Secretary of State Rex. W. Tillerson wrote in the report.
"ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities. The protection of these groups – and others who are targets of violent extremism – remains a human rights priority for the Trump Administration."
Groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice have meanwhile urged the United Nations to also recognize the plight of Christians. The U.N. has admitted that genocide is taking place in Iraq, though has focused more on the Yazidi minority group.
Smith, chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee, and of the bi-partisan Helsinki Commission, criticized in the past the administration of former President Barack Obama of not doing enough to help.
"The president has not stepped up to assist for the last three years, but he could step up before he gets out of office," Smith told Crux back in December.
"My hope for the new government, my fondest hope, is that it provide immediate life saving aid to the displaced Christian community in Erbil," he added at the time of Trump's incoming administration.