Remarks on the First Anniversary of the U.S. Congressional Genocide Declaration

By Thursday, March 16, 2017

A few days ago I was at my desk preparing for this event when my daughter Brooke came up and asked what I was doing.

“I’m planning an event to mark the one year anniversary of the genocide declaration,” I said.

“What’s genocide?” she asked.

I proceeded to explain the term and describe the terrible things that are happening to Christians like her in the Middle East not far from where the prophet Jonah is buried. 

“What are people doing to help them?” she wondered.

I mumbled a few things in response but I knew then, and I think we all know:

We’re not doing enough. One year has passed. We’re pushing back ISIS. But we’re not doing enough for the victims.

This genocide demands a robust American response because it is a moral cause that speaks to human freedom and dignity. It speaks to who we are as Americans. If you’re a Chaldean Syriac Assyrian (Christian), Yazidi, Shabak, or Shiite Turkmen, that moral dimension becomes more important, even existential.

But this is not just a moral cause – preserving pluralism in the Middle East by stabilizing, protecting, and investing in territories at the heart of the Middle East – territories that have served for thousands of years as ancestral homelands to these indigenous people – is in the strategic interests of the US and its global partners.

We can’t kill the bad guys without having a plan to help the good guys, to restore governance to an ungoverned region. We know that such places become breeding grounds for the next wave of violence.

That’s why I call on the U.S. Congress and the Trump administration to work together with our global and regional partners to facilitate the creation of an autonomous safe zone in the districts of Nineveh Plain, Tal Afar and Sinjar that will be dedicated to the protection and self-administration of minority communities who are victims of genocide, and to appropriate real money that will go directly to these communities for the purpose of rebuilding their lives and their economies.

We could have done better in 2003. The rise of ISIS gives us another chance to do things right and help Iraq move toward a new era of pluralism through decentralized governance.

This will take leadership on the part of the American people and the American president.  But it’s possible. And it’s necessary. We can’t let another day pass.

My daughter is asking: “Mr. Trump, Mr. Tillerson, members of Congress, what comes next? What is the future for victims of genocide on our watch?”

I stand ready alongside this entire Genocide Coalition, to help bear the burden and help bring justice to those who have suffered because of who they are and what they believe.

Today the abstract idea of international religious freedom has a face. I hope that my daughter can look that face in the eye someday and say in good faith that her dad and her country did everything in their power to protect genocide victims in their ancient homeland.

Robert Nicholson

Robert Nicholson is Founder and Executive Director of The Philos Project. He holds a BA in Hebrew Studies from Binghamton University, and both a JD and MA in Middle Eastern history from Syracuse University. A former U.S. Marine and a 2012-13 Tikvah Fellow, Robert founded The Philos Project in 2014. His advocacy focuses on spreading the vision of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Middle East based on freedom and rule of law. Robert serves on the Board of Directors of Passages, and is a publisher of Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy. His written work has appeared in First Things, The Federalist, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, and The American Interest, among others. Follow Robert on Twitter: @rwnicholson_