June 22, 2017
Hon. Al Franken
United States Senate
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Franken,
Peace be with you; we hope you are well.
We write to urge you to co-sponsor the bi-partisan “Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act” (H.R. 390), which passed the House of Representatives on June 9, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. This legislation appropriately focuses on atrocities being committed against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East, especially Syria. It takes the 2016 Genocide Resolution (H.Con.Res. 75) one step further, and seeks to help those who have been harmed and to hold the perpetrators accountable.
As the situation in Syria remains dire for minorities, H.R. 390 calls for much-needed assistance for survivors of genocide and would allow faith-based organizations (such as Catholic Relief Services) that are already providing humanitarian assistance to these populations to access U.S. government funding in their work.
Over the years, the Catholic Church has consistently supported Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities facing persecution in the Middle East, many of whom are internally displaced or have fled as refugees. Pope Francis has denounced the persecution, torture, and killing of Christians in the Middle East, calling it a “form of genocide.” He lamented the wider conflicts that have put so many in danger, and has condemned the actions of those who persecute others solely for reasons of their faith and ethnicity.
In a 2014 letter to the UN, Pope Francis said, “The most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities and to protect innocent peoples.”
We strongly support continuing refugee programs that provide aid to all persons fleeing violence, particularly in the Middle East, and the Church in the United States stands ready to assist in the resettlement of all vulnerable refugees from Syria and Iraq who are unable to return home. But we cannot overlook the specific challenge of the genocide of religious minorities, and the need for particular assistance to those communities, so that they need not leave their homes and places of origin.
We have enclosed an opinion editorial from Mr. Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, that appeared recently in the Washington Post, and which explains the humanitarian urgency in greater detail. Should you have additional questions, please contact Mr. Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, at 651-227-8777.
Thank you for your consideration, and for your service to Minnesotans and to our country. Please know of our prayers for your work.
The Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis
The Most Rev. Michael J. Hoeppner
Bishop of Crookston
The Most Rev. John M. LeVoir
Bishop of New Ulm
The Most Rev. Paul D. Sirba
Bishop of Duluth
The Most Rev. Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of St. Cloud
The Most Rev. John M. Quinn
Bishop of Winona
The Most Rev. Andrew H. Cozzens
Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis