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U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza Questions Secretary Clinton at Foreign Affairs Hearing on Assyrians

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 04:27 PM CT

VIDEO: Rep. Cardoza Questions Sec. Clinton About Violence Against Assyrian Christians, Other Religious Minorities in Middle East. May 01, 2011.

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) questioned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the plight of Assyrian Christians and other vulnerable religious minority groups in the Middle East. During a hearing held by the Foreign Affairs Committee, of which he is a member, Congressman Cardoza renewed his call for the State Department to formulate a comprehensive strategy for the protection of religious minorities being targeted by violence.

“Madam Secretary, at least 70 people were killed during an attack last October on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, making it the worst massacre of Iraqi Christians since 2003,” said Congressman Cardoza to Secretary Clinton during the hearing. “Less than two months later, extremists bombed the homes of more than a dozen Christian families throughout Baghdad. And on New Year’s Eve, 23 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, Egypt, while coming out of mass at St. Mark and St. Peter Coptic Church.”

Congressman Cardoza continued, “Since these tragic incidents, the Middle East has been rocked by wide ranging democratic protests and regime changes. Has this ongoing instability increased the already heightened risk to vulnerable religious minority groups like Assyrians, Jews, Copts, and others?”

Secretary Clinton responded that Christians and other religious minorities were indeed being targeted across the Middle East and needed protection. The Secretary also said the U.S. needs to do more to protect the rights of religious minorities and hold governments accountable for abuses.

Click here to watch Congressman Cardoza’s exchange with Secretary Clinton during today’s hearing.

Congressman Cardoza, a member of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, has worked to bring attention to the plight of people targeted by violence because of their religious beliefs. He has repeatedly called on the State Department to do more to protect religious minorities facing persecution, particularly those in countries reeling from political upheaval.

In November 2010, in response to the massacre of 70 Christians worshiping at a Catholic Church in Baghdad, Congressman Cardoza called on the State Department to develop a cohesive strategy for protecting religious minority groups being subjected to a pattern of violent discrimination in Iraq.

In a letter to Secretary Clinton, Congressman Cardoza and his colleagues in the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus wrote, “While the Iraqi government has taken some steps to improve security around churches, these efforts are clearly insufficient. Individual Christians and Mandaeans have been consistently targeted in Iraq, and without real action to protect them, many continue to live in constant fear for their lives.”

The letter continued, “We respectfully request that the State Department take immediate steps to formulate and articulate a specific, comprehensive strategy for the protection of Iraq’s Christians and other minority groups while a meaningful number still remain there.”

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