Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley believes the U.S. government needs to be doing more to help protect the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Islamic State's "genocide" of Christians in Iraq and Syria.
At a time when President Barack Obama's State Department is doing very little to allow the scores of persecuted Iraqi and Syrian Christians to come and live legally and safely inside the United States, the 52-year-old former Maryland governor wrote in a Friday op-ed published by Detroit Free Press that there is "no excuse" for the United States' "inaction" on the issue of protecting the endangered Middle Eastern Christian and religious minority communities.
"'Genocide' is not a word to be used lightly. But it is not hyperbole to say Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria face genocide at the hands of ISIS today," O'Malley, a practicing Catholic, wrote. "In the face of unthinkable terrorism and bloodletting on the basis of religion and ethnicity alone, the U.S. must do more to protect the Middle East's religious minorities from extremists committed to their annihilation."
As over 500,000 Iraqi and Syrian Christians have fled from their homes to save themselves from being forced to convert to Islam or die at the hands of Islamic State, or "ISIS," militants, O'Malley recently had the opportunity to discuss the concerns of the Chaldean Christian community with Chaldean-Americans.
O'Malley wrote that the the Chaldeans told him about the struggles that their loved ones are having trying to get asylum status so they find safety in the United States. Although the Chaldean community has lined up thousands of sponsors willing to take in their persecuted brethren, many of them are still waiting for the federal government to take action.
"We agreed that the extraordinary threat facing religious minorities in Iraq and Syria requires an extraordinary effort on our part to protect them. The complexity and difficulty of the situation is no excuse for inaction," O'Malley asserted. "The Chaldean-American community has not only identified the locations of thousands of displaced Christians in Iraq, but has also organized thousands of sponsor families in the United States, ready to give them refuge if only they could get here."
O'Malley cited how 20 Chaldean Christians have been detained for over five months in a San Diego prison after they were caught sneaking across the U.S. southern border in an attempt to find refuge. Although the 20 Iraqi Christians have sponsor families willing to take them in, the Christians remain detained for unspecified reasons.
O'Malley condemned U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for not obeying a resolution passed in Congress last year.
"Last year, the U.S. House took the positive step of passing a resolution on the status of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. The resolution specifically called on the State Department to 'help secure safe havens for those claiming amnesty,'" O'Malley wrote. "Unfortunately, we have fallen short of this goal here at home. Recently, I learned of the 20 Chaldean Christians who escaped ISIS in Iraq and have been detained in a San Diego immigration facility for five months. This is not the 'safe haven' that Congress intended. Barring a public safety threat, these refugees should be released to their families and given due process as the government considers their asylum cases."
"Protecting religious minorities against ISIS and facilitating the safe passage of those in the most precarious circumstances is a moral imperative," O'Malley continued. "We can and must do more."
O'Malley continued by explaining that the Middle East was once rich with religious diversity having been the birthplace of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. But thanks to the senseless violence waged toward religious minorities by militants advancing ISIS' distorted brand of Sunni Islam, Christianity in the region runs the risk of becoming extinct.
"ISIS' plan to destroy Christianity in the Middle East is more ambitious than simply wiping out the Christian population; it also aspires to erase any semblance that Christianity ever existed in the Middle East," O'Malley stated. "Last September, ISIS bombed the 7th-Century Green Church in Tikrit, one of the region's oldest churches. And when ISIS took over Mosul last June, it destroyed or occupied all of the city's 45 Christian institutions, converting one of its largest churches into a stated 'mosque of the mujahedeen.'"
O'Malley is one of five candidates running for the Democratic Party's primary nomination, including former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.