Citing the attack by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Levant (ISIL) on the city of Mosul in Iraq in June, Eshoo said Christians were driven from their homes because of their faith.
“In June, at least a half a million people were forced from Mosul, including every Christian in the city,” Eshoo said at the In Defense of Christians (IDC) summit in Washington, D.C. “And mass, for the first time in thousands of years, could not be celebrated.”
She said ISIS has killed men and boys and kidnapped and assaulted women and girls in Iraq and Syria.
“The genocide of Christians – and that’s what it is – it is a genocide -- it is genocide,” Eshoo said, as she was interrupted by applause from the audience of religious leaders and advocates from the Middle East and across the U.S. “The genocide that’s taking place in the Middle East today is a repeat of the history of my family.”
Eshoo, whose mother was Armenian and father Assyrian, recalled the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century where more than a million religious and ethnic minorities were killed by the Ottoman government in the region that today is the Republic of Turkey.
“They were being slaughtered because they were Christians,” Eshoo said.
Eshoo said she is encouraged by a growing “willingness” in the United States to protect religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East.
In August, a bill to establish a special envoy at the State Department to oversee the cause of religious liberty in the Middle East – sponsored by Eshoo and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) -- was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. The president has yet to name the new envoy, according to Eshoo.
Eshoo concluded her remarks by saying action should be taken to “prevent further violence.”
“We have to keep our resolve in order to prevent further violence against religious and ethnic minorities, because the genocide of these vulnerable populations is still taking place, and we know that,” Eshoo said.
Eshoo joined four Democrats and 12 Republicans who spoke at the inaugural IDC summit, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Joe Pitts (R- Pa.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.).