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US Senate committee passes resolution that seeks to aid Christian genocide victims in Iraq

(Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah)An Iraqi Christian prepares for the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016.

A Senate committee has passed a resolution that seeks to provide emergency aid for Christians and other victims of genocide in Iraq and Syria.

HR 390, also known as the Iraq and Syria Genocide Accountability Act, directs the U.S. State Department to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis and Muslims who were displaced from their homes during the expansion of the Islamic State terror group in 2014.

The resolution was passed by the House of Representatives in June and advanced by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

"The vote from this morning is an important step toward providing relief for those victims of the genocide committed by ISIS," said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), one of the sponsors of the measure.

Iraqi Christians have been depending on the help of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil and aid groups like the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need.

However, Smith, who has made several trips to Iraq visiting ISIS victims, insisted that the aid from NGO's is "not enough."

"We're not asking for new money," the lawmaker said at a June press conference before the resolution passed the U.S. House.

"We're asking to make sure the money that's in the pot is provided to those who have been left out and left behind for about three years," he added.

The U.S. has officially declared that ISIS has committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shi'a Muslims in Iraq and Syria. But Christians in Iraq, despite being genocide victims, have reported that they have not been receiving official U.S. aid.

Kenneth Starr, a former U.S. solicitor general and federal judge, noted in a recent editorial for The Washington Post that the U.S. government has done little to help the genocide victims.

"Except for limited emergency funding from the government of Hungary, of all places, humanitarian relief has come almost entirely from private charities in the United States and around the world," he wrote.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), another sponsor of the bill, said that Christians could have greater access to the aid if it was allowed to go through churches and church-run organizations that are able to reach the Christian populations.

"The State Department would not allow any U.S. dollars to flow to church organizations. And this legislation allows for that," she said at the press conference, according to Catholic News Agency.

The Knights of Columbus has warned that Christian families could leave Iraq for good by the fall if they do not have a viable way to return to their homes as they have already been away for three years and their children are going without education for another year. The organization has pledged almost $15 million to aid Christians in the war-torn country.

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