Shlama joins IRF roundtable in Detroit
December 10, 2018 | SHLAMA PRESS RELEASE
The Shlama Foundation participated in an International Religious Freedom roundtable on Monday at Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield, MI. The roundtable was co-hosted by the Chaldean Community Foundation, which invited Shlama to come share our unique insight into the present-day situation in the Nineveh Plains.
The dialogue was mediated by Greg Mitchell of The Mitchell Firm, who serves as co-chair and coordinator of the IRF roundtable. Opening remarks were made by Mr. Mitchell, followed by Mr. Martin Manna, President of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, and Ms. Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, who is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative to the United States.
The roundtable encouraged open dialogue between representing organizations of the people from the Nineveh Plains and the neighboring Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. Both Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Rahman took time to listen to input from nearly all of the 70 people who attended. Those included representatives of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac churches, political parties and humanitarian organizations, as well as Yazidi representatives, Baha’i representatives, American government representatives and many others.
The Shlama team that attended included board members Ranna Abro, John Paul David and Aessin Shikwana. Ranna Abro delivered a prepared statement on behalf of The Shlama Foundation.
“While we understand this is a faith discussion, we would like to outline the systemic cause of any religious issues for the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people, the Yezidis and other minorities in the Nineveh Plains,” Abro stated. “While the KRG allows for a relative degree of religious freedom, we believe that the major issues affecting our people are mostly due to political disenfranchisement.
“In order for us, the people of the Nineveh Plains, to truly prosper in our ancestral homeland and to live in harmony next to our Kurdish neighbors, we need to have complete freedom and self-determination,” Abro continued. “Anything less than that, and we are opening the door for continued discrimination that will risk the complete eradication of our people from our homeland that we have continuously occupied for over 6,000 years.
“Our language is threatened. Our land is threatened. Our historical sites are threatened, and our religion is threatened,” she added. “Our entire existence is threatened right now.”
Along with ensuring the guests in attendance were made aware of the current situation the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people are facing in the Nineveh Plains, the Shlama team also took this opportunity to network with influential people in this sphere.
“This dialogue is an important aspect of Shlama’s long-term goal of being able to provide more aid to the indigenous people of the Nineveh Plains,” said Shikwana.
The roundtable was the first of many, as the plan is to have more roundtables on a regular basis in Detroit, Washington D.C, and Erbil, Iraq.
“This forum is something that the Shlama Foundation is eager to engage in, not only to advocate against the plight of our brothers and sisters in the homeland, but to also be an active part of any future policies that will affect the region we serve,” said David.
The Shlama team will provide updates on any future roundtables and any outcomes of the networks established at similar events.