Former Congressman Frank R. Wolf and the newly created religious freedom group, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, released a report today entitled “Edge of Extinction,” based on a recent fact finding mission to Iraq. The report warns that if the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq is not defeated and removed, Christians, Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and other religious and ethnic minority groups face a looming genocide.
“If the Islamic State is not defeated and ultimately destroyed, there will be no future for these ancient faith communities who now face an existential crisis and genocidal onslaught in lands they have inhabited since antiquity,” Wolf said. “Their survival and ability to flourish is a bellwether for religious freedom and pluralism in the Middle East more broadly.”
The Wilberforce delegation travelled within 1.5 miles of the Islamic State frontline and later visited the inaugural training grounds of the Nineveh Protection Unit, a Christian defensive guard being trained to defend historic Christian villages and towns if and when they become liberated from the Islamic State. The delegation interviewed dozens of displaced Christians and Yezidis and met with senior Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials, religious leaders and humanitarian organizations on the ground. The delegation found that six months after fleeing the Islamic State’s murderous march through their lands, Iraq’s displaced religious minorities feel abandoned and they implore the international community to help.
“A decade ago, Iraq’s Christian population numbered 1.5 million,” says Wilberforce President Randel Everett. “Today, roughly 300,000 remain, and most have no jobs, no schools, and no places of worship. The Nineveh Plains had been one of the last relatively safe havens for Christians, Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and other minority groups. With the fall of Mosul and surrounding areas last summer, Iraq’s minorities want to remain in their homeland, but have no place to go.”
The full report with recommendations can be accessed at www.21wilberforce.org.