William J. Murray and Congressman Trent Franks

Chairman’s Report For April 12, 2017

In this issue of the newsletter
Update:   Postcards to Congress Campaign – Victory as HR- 390 passes committee
Update:   Visits with congressmen and Senators increase to support HR-390
Update:   Diapers for Refugees program delivery in March – feminine products added
New:        Did Assad, already winning a war, use a weapon of desperation?

Postcards to Congress Program Moves Forward

Working for passage of HR-390 : In the last 30 days more than 50,000 letters have been  mailed containing postcards to mail to Congress, urging support and passage of  the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017 (HR-390).

The bill (HR-390) authored by Congressman Chris Smith, would bypass the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and allow Christians and other persecuted minorities from Iraq and Syria to apply directly at our embassies.

Every one of these letters mailed by the Religious Freedom Coalition contained three postcards that were personalized for the individual receiving the letter. One postcard is addressed to the congressman of the individual receiving the letter. The other two cards are addressed to that person’s two Senators.

The process of making the cards personalized to each person receiving the letter is expensive, but greatly increases the number of cards actually mailed to Congress.

The text of the postcards to Senators is different than to congressmen. The postcard message to the Senators reads:

 As your constituent, I demand you introduce, vote on, and pass a Senate version of The Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390) so that our nation once again stands with the Christian victims of Islam. Christian men are being beheaded for their faith, their wives and daughters are being taken as sex slaves, and their sons forced to fight for Islamic armies. The roots of the church founded by the Saints are being torn out and Christians are being slaughtered using weapons furnished by this nation. Jesus stopped Saul on the road to Damascus and told him not to persecute Christians. Under Obama, the United States used that exact same road to supply weapons to Islamists to kill Christians in Syria. Now that he has left office, please reverse course and pass this legislation immediately!

Visits to congressional offices increase as well: In the last few weeks I have talked directly to a number of congressmen about pushing HR-390.  These included my friend Congressman Trent Franks who chairs the International Religious Freedom Caucus, as well as Congressmen Brat (VA), Aderholt (AL), Emmer (MN), Fortenberry (NE) and others.

Our First Victory as HR-390 passes out of committee: The results of our hard work and your participation in the postcard program is the bill’s passage out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 3rd. This is a step toward victory!

About passage of HR-390 Congressman Chris Smith, who introduced the bill, said:

“ISIS has committed genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Christians, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minority communities in Iraq and Syria. Many of them are now internally displaced or refugees and desperately need aid. Unless at least some humanitarian, stabilization and recovery assistance is intentionally directed to the survivors, many of them are at risk of being forced to leave their ancient homelands forever. Some may even put their lives in the hands of human smugglers and attempt the deadly Mediterranean journey to Europe.”

Most Christians are afraid to register with the United Nations High commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) because they know it is run by Sunni Muslims in Jordan where most Christian refugees fled. As a result, they receive no aid. HR-390 would require agencies delivering aid to do so in a proportionate manner with special attention to groups, such as the Christians of Syria, who have suffered genocide.

HR-390 still needs to pass in the full House and then move to the Senate. The postcard program must continue, in order to pressure congressmen so they in turn will pressure Speaker Paul Ryan and others in the House leadership to move the bill onto the floor.

Senator Lankford will help: I have spoken to Senator James Lankford (OK) about helping to enter a companion bill in the Senate or move the

William J. Murray and Congressman Trent Franks

Congressman Franks and I have worked many years together on various projects. This photo was taken at a Religious Freedom Coalition event at which he spoke way back in 2005.

House bill directly to a vote under the suspension rule. That can be done as long as no Democrats attempt to filibuster the bill. If a filibuster is threatened, then a companion bill must be drafted.

Senator Lankford is a member of the Prayer Caucus and he is also a part of the Senate Values Action Team which tries to guide social conservative legislation in the Senate.

An added benefit of working with Congressman Franks in the House is that he and Senator Lankford are part of the same morning prayer group. In my last conversation with Congressman Franks be told me he would talk to Senator Lankford about the various options available to move HR-390 through the Senate after it passes the House.

More efforts with Congressman Franks: At a meeting on April 4th in Congressman Franks’ office, I worked with him and his assistant in charge of military legislation to designate funds out of the defense spending on Iraq directly to Christian militias. Currently the Kurdish administration is starving out the Christian militias that helped them capture the Nineveh Plain. Congressman Franks is on the House Armed Services Committee. As a member of that committee he can directly offer amendments to spending.

The current military spending bill before the Armed Services Committee has funds designated directly to the Kurdish Authority because in the past funds moving through the Iraqi government disappeared. Likewise, funds sent directly to the Kurdish Authority were not used to assist minority groups such as Christians.

The Nineveh Plain must be designated as a self-governing area for Christians, whose ancestors have lived there for nearly 2,000 years, and Christians must be able to defend themselves.

Diapers for Refugees program expands in small but important way

March diaper distribution marks start of year two: In March more than $18,000 was transferred to our ministry partner in Iraq to begin year two of the Diapers for Refugees program. The first distribution of 160,000 diapers was conducted last year in March. The cost has remained stable over the last year and our cost for absorbent, high quality diapers made in Turkey is still right at 11 cents each. The same quality diaper purchased in the United States would cost more, and there would be the added shipping costs to Iraq.

Diaper for Refugees distribution in Iraq

The program services about 300 displaced Christian families who live in official refugee camps such as Ashti 2. The distribution process is extremely orderly. Our ministry partner keeps a record of each family with infants registered at the camp by name, caravan number, number of children, home town, and previous number of diapers received.

The camps having caravans are the best equipped. Each family in Ashti 2 lives in a small caravan shaped like a boxcar except smaller, and sitting on cinder blocks.  A standard size mobile home in the United States is 90 feet long and 16 feet wide and 76 feet long. By contrast the largest caravans in the camps fortunate enough to have them are 21 feet long and 9 ft wide, or about 189 sq. ft. for an average family of four. That is not very much space and few families are fortunate enough to have that much.

As a result, there are cramped conditions in the camps which are extremely densely populated, and therefore the distributions must be done in an orderly way. It is very important that only the families in need of the diapers receive them.

Filling a real need:  One of the greatest needs for the women and teenage girls is feminine sanitary pads. As part of the Christmas for Refugees program last December, the family of every child who participated received hygiene materials. In these large, sturdy plastic bags filled with soaps, shampoos, disinfectants, laundry soaps and other supplies, there were feminine sanitary pads. Some of the women visibly cried when they saw what they were getting.

Our Iraqi partner requested funds for a three-month supply for 5,000 displaced Christian women located in several camps. This would have required 15,000 packets at a cost of about $1.00 per packet or $15,000. We just do not have the budget for that need at the current time. As a result, we sent the funds for feminine sanitary pads only to the mothers in the 300 families we are currently supplying with baby diapers.

Most ministries and aid organization focus on food, clothing, housing and items for survival but not those things that make survival under these conditions bearable.  The hygiene items also help to prevent outbreaks of disease in the densely crowded refugee camps.

Diaper distributions are scheduled for June, September and December. It is my sincere prayer that the funds for the entire year can be raised and set aside in the next thirty days. Having the funds for the year would allow us to once again concentrate on the Christmas program.

Please continue to pray with me for the Lord to guide us in the best use of our means to help the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.

Weapons of desperation – and when they are to be used

When are weapons of desperation used?: Certain types of weapons of war are used as a last resort, as an act of desperation. One of those weapons of last resort is nerve gas. Nerve gas agents are held in reserve by many nations, even by the United States, for defensive use when it seems a  war is all but lost, and that using that weapon is the last chance to turn the tide.

For the last 18 months the war in Syria has been dominated by the Syrian Arab Army under President Assad with the help of the Russian air force and Russian military advisers. The Syrian Army has re-captured vast areas in the country’s north including the small part of Aleppo it did not control. Damascus province has for the most part been cleared. The water supply to Damascus that had been cut off by the Free Syrian Army has been restored.

Rebels in hundreds of areas have surrendered, with the understanding that they could board special buses and be transferred with their families to Idlib Province on the Turkish border.

With the wind at his back, and during the same week President Trump announced that he would no longer seek the ouster of President Assad — and one day before a peace conference in which the rebels were likely to step back — it is claimed that President Assad mounted a nerve gas attack in Idlib.

Keep in mind that Idlib is the province where President Assad is trying to get the surrendering fighters to move to. Idlib is next to Turkey, a nation which has supplied the rebels and has allowed them to sell and profit from billions of dollars of stolen items, including museum artifacts, that have been stolen in Syria to raise funds for war.

At the very moment he could claim victory, President Assad used nerve gas and turned the whole world against him. Does this make sense to anyone who is at all rational?

The Pentagon and the CIA supposedly furnished President Trump “proof.” No bomb fragments were found, no canisters of gas. The only “proof” was that people died, of nerve gas it is claimed, and “Assad must have done it.”

In actuality the warehouse the Syrian Air Force admittedly bombed was a weapons manufacturing facility. What kind of weapons were in there no one knows.  I don’t know who is responsible for the nerve gas in Idlib. I don’t know if the exposure was intentional or accidental. I do know what President Trump said in his Inaugural Address:

“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.” President Donald Trump, January 20th, 2017

Once again the United States will arm and fund Sunni Muslim rebels in Syria who will attack, enslave and kill Christians. The rebels’ goal is the destruction of the secular state in Syria and the establishment of a Sunni Muslim Sharia based government.

All of those desiring dialog with Russia and an end to the wars in the Middle East, including Steve Bannon, have been ousted from the National Security Council. President Trump is now surrounded by those who do not share his desires as expressed in the statement above.

William J. Murray, Chairman
Religious Freedom Coalition, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #900, Washington, DC 20004 * (202) 742-8990

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