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San Diego Businessman Meeting With Top White House Officials About Chaldean Crisis

Friar Gabriel Tooma leads Mass at the Chaldean Church of the Virgin Mary of t...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Friar Gabriel Tooma leads Mass at the Chaldean Church of the Virgin Mary of the Harvest, in al-Qoush, a 7th century monastery built into a hill overlooking Alqosh, a village of some 6,000 inhabitants about 31 miles north of Mosul, northern Iraq, June 15, 2014.

A San Diego business leader who sounded the alarm over the persecution of Christians in northern Iraq will travel to Washington, D.C., later this week to meet with top administration officials.

Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association, will lead a coalition of people who represent Chaldean Catholics in the Middle East.

Photo by Susan Murphy

Mark Arabo, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Chaldean community in San Diego County, says he worries about mass genocide of Christians and minorities in Iraq as violence continues to escalate, June 12, 2014.

Arabo is scheduled to meet with National Security Advisor 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. They will also ask for targeted drone strikes against the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS.

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.

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," Arabo said, 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 Arabo 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.

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.

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