House Passes Bill to Limit ISIS Profits From Destruction of Ancient Sites

(Photo: MEMRI JTTM/Shumoukh Al-Islam forum)ISIS published a collection of images showing an array of acts of vandalism perpetrated against churches in Ninawa, Iraq, on March 16, 2015. The images show ISIS men engaged in the destruction of various Christian symbols, which ISIS perceives as being polytheistic and idolatrous. The men remove crosses from atop churches and replace them with the black ISIS banner, destroy crosses at other locations such as atop doorways and gravestones, and destroy and remove icons and statues inside and outside churches.

U.S. House lawmakers passed legislation on Tuesday making it harder for ISIS to sell looted relics and artifacts within the United States.

The bipartisan measure titled the "Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act" was sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and "improves coordination to protect cultural property, and prevent artifacts removed since the start of Syria's civil war from being sold or imported into the United States."

The bill requires the U.S. State Department to create a position to oversee federal efforts to protect international cultural artifacts.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., who chairs the Committee on Foreign Affairs, declared, "It's no exaggeration to say the history of civilization is under attack.

"In addition to ISIS's campaign of sickening violence against men, women and children," declared Royce, "the extremists are looting and destroying their way through ancient sites considered the birthplace of modern civilization."

Congressman Chris Smith, R-N.J., a cosponsor of the legislation, has a long track record in the U.S. House of working to protect Christians and religious freedom around the world.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Faith McDonnell, director of religious liberty programs at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, highlighted how the legislation will protect Christian artifacts and sites.

"ISIS is trying to wipe out Christianity," declared McDonnell, both by destroying the literal "temples" or ancient Christian churches and their beautiful art dedicated to the glory of God, and also by slaughtering the Christians – who are, as the Bible says, "the temple of the Holy Spirit."

McDonnell expanded on the true aim of ISIS and other Islamic extremists in the region.

In both ways, they are trying to wipe out the evidence that the indigenous culture of the region was Christian long before Islamic jihadists appeared on the scene to slaughter their way to dominance," she added.

McDonnell called on the free world to be more responsive to the plight of Christians and others who are being slaughtered by ISIS.

"It is appalling that the U.S. government and the other free world governments have not stopped ISIS," she said. "With every day that goes by, they grow stronger and kill more and more people. They need to be stopped now, by whatever means necessary, or the whole world will continue to suffer."

Congressman Royce believes that the looting by ISIS is earning the extremist group up to "$100 million annually from the sale of stolen artifacts.

"Passing today's important legislation helps the U.S. do its part to counter the smuggling and sale of stolen Syrian antiquities," declared Rep. Royce.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that after oil, looting was the second largest funding source for ISIS.

In March, Islamic extremists elements destroyed the 3,000 year old city of Nimrud and smashed relics in a museum in Mosul, Iraq. It is believed that all Christian churches in Mosul have been leveled.

 In September of 2014 the historic 7th century Green Church in Tikrit, Iraq was demolished with improvised explosive devices. Many Ancient Syrian churches have too been destroyed.

"These are not random acts of vandalism. We're witnessing a deliberate campaign to attempt to rewrite world history," said Rep. Engel about the looting.