Call for Recognition of Genocide Against Christians in Iraq and Syria

A growing chorus is calling on the Obama Administration to recognize the barbaric attacks of ISIS against Christians as acts of genocide.  Such an official designation would be significant in that it could strengthen the case for the United States to act in defense of these victims.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, a number of faith leaders and human rights experts noted that the violence against Christians in Iraq and Syria fits the definition of “genocide” under international law – that is, attacks “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  The signatories, which include former Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chairman Robert George, and USCIRF Commissioner Katrina Lantos Swett, are concerned that the State Department may neglect to address persecution against Christians in a forthcoming determination about another viciously targeted religious minority, the Yazidis.  The letter highlights assassinations, mass murder, sexual enslavement, forced conversion to Islam, and destruction of churches as examples of genocidal actions against Christians. They wrote, “ISIS genocidal campaign against Christians continues today, with hundreds of Christians remaining in ISIS captivity, and with summary executions, including by beheadings and crucifixions, occurring as recently as only a few months ago.”

Notably, a related resolution in the House of Representatives spearheaded by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, has garnered the broad bipartisan support of 159 Members of Congress.  This legislation (H.Con.Res.75) declares, “[T]he atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons are, and are hereby declared to be, ‘crimes against humanity’, and ‘genocide,’” and then reminds the international community of its obligation to counter such evil.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: December 11, 2015

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