A San Diego business leader who sounded the alarm over the persecution of Christians in northern Iraq will travel to Washington this week to meet with top administration officials and ask for targeted drone strikes against ISIS — the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association, will lead a coalition of people who represent Chaldean Catholics in the Middle East.
Arabo is scheduled to meet with National Security Adviser Susan Rice and possibly with Secretary of State John Kerry.
The coalition he is leading plans to ask that President Barack Obama recognize the situation in Iraq as a refugee crisis, to immediately increase visas and to raise the annual asylum ceiling for Middle Easterners from 10,000 to 40,000.
Thousands of Christians fled the Iraqi city of Mosul, where they traditionally live side-by-side with Muslims, after being threatened with death by ISIS.
Arabo has referred to the situation as “modern-day ethnic cleansing.”
The fundamentalist Islamic fighters swept through northern Iraq in late May and early June and were advancing on Baghdad before their offensive stalled. Witnesses said ISIS has instead imposed strict Islamic law in the regions they control.
“We fully support the (United Nations) in condemning the violent actions of ISIS,” said Arabo, who speaks on behalf of Iraqi Christians locally and nationally. “This is a step we’ve been pushing for and we hope it is just the beginning of unilateral actions taken against these extremists threatening global stability.”
He praised Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., for a statement condemning ISIS.
The coalition is leading to the nation’s capital is working with resettlement agencies, like Catholic Relief Services, and the State Department to ensure humanitarian aide in Iraq is routed correctly, and to rally the United Nations.
Arabo, a San Diego State University graduate, launched the effort to protect Christians in the Middle East seven weeks ago, “meaning the bill he helped Congressman [Juan] Vargas draft (that passed Friday night in the House) was just a thought of Mark’s two months ago,” said a news release about his plans.
Arabo calls himself the first in the United States “to start making noise about the Iraqi crisis to Congress, to the White House and to the media.”
Arabo and his coalition are said to be in “regular contact” with Ben Rhodes, an Obama assistant and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
“Ben is one of the people Mark met with last week at the White House, the day before the bill passed in the House,” said the release.
The Chaldean Catholic church and the Roman Catholic church are two branches of the one Catholic Church. Both accept the authority of the Pope, have valid apostolic succession, and are agreed on all significant points of doctrine.
The Chaldean Catholic church is a branch of the Catholic Church that accepts the authority of the pope.
Thousands of Chaldeans have settled in San Diego’s East County and many operate the small neighborhood convenience stores represented by the Neighborhood Market Association.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
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