"Christians, Yezidis, and others should remain an essential part of the Middle East's once rich tapestry of ethnic and religious diversity," he added.
However, the Christian communities of Northern Iraq have been steadily dwindling since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country. If refugees are not re-settled in the area soon, and if they remain indefinitely in makeshift dwellings and refugee camps, then they could leave Iraq for good and the communities could disappear altogether.
This would be catastrophic for the future of the Middle East, Farr insisted at the UN; it would portend "the destruction of religious pluralism, and with it any opportunity for stability, stable self-governance, and economic development."
Some, like Farr, have floated the idea of "an autonomous, multi-religious, multi-ethnic 'safe zone,'" to be set up in order to keep Christians in their ancestral homeland and not disperse the communities that have lived there for centuries. If set up like past safety zones, international peacekeeping forces would be appointed to protect genocide victims in an area removed from the conflict against Islamic State.
A lot would have to be accomplished for this to be a viable plan, Farr acknowledged. Aside from military protection there would have to be "an internal police force, economic revitalization, just and effective governance, treatment for trauma and psychological distress, and mechanisms for reconciliation."
Neighboring countries would have to accept the plan, along with Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq's central government, he added.
After a period of time, the "safe zone" could hopefully become semi-autonomous province, Johnny Oram, executive director of the Chaldean-Assyrian Business Alliance, stated in his written testimony at the May 26 hearing.
The land would have "some semblance of self-governance and self-security," he explained, and would be "the only way to regain the trust of the minorities who feel they were betrayed by the Iraqi government and the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government]."
However, Stephen Hollingshead of the advocacy group In Defense of Christians has a different vision for the Christians in the area. "UN 'safe zones' have a very checkered past of success," he said. "They tend not to be safe, and they are, with one possible exception, never economically self-sufficient."
Hollingshead is the managing director of the IDC's Haven Project. Instead of starting with a "safe haven," he explained, he would like to immediately transition the land into a self-sufficient place for Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities – one village at a time.
Christians here could not only survive, but could flourish and be self-sustaining, protecting themselves and providing for themselves and trading with partners in the region, he said.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The Nineveh Plain, which lies between Mosul to the west and Iraqi Kurdistan to the north and east, is the target for this endeavor. Christians could cultivate the fertile and and produce goods for international markets while policing and protecting themselves.
There are, of course, many variables. The Kurdish Peshmerga, "if left to themselves," Hollingshead stated, will simply annex the plain once Islamic State is defeated.
That is why Christian and Yazidi militias must partake in the fight against Islamic State, he insisted: "If the Christians and the Yazidis, who owned the place, do not actively participate in the re-taking of the place, then they won't have a seat at the table in deciding what happens."
"I believe that the Kurds would be willing to do a deal – and I'm asking the U.S. government to make such a deal," he continued. If the Kurds agree to relinquish their claim to the plain in exchange for the U.S. recognizing their right to self-determination, such an agreement could come about.
This is no certain proposition – Christians in the region still remember Kurdish participation in the genocide of Assyrian Christians a century ago.
And they are still wary of the Peshmerga today, according to Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the Simon Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.