Saturday, March 19, 2016

In Groundbreaking Move, US declares Christians among victims of ISIS genocide

Thank God for this development. Raymond Ibrahim, and others of us have been writing about this for over a year, urging the Obama administration to formally declare Christians victims of genocide committed by the Islamic State. Last Autumn, it seemed Secretary Kerry was prepared to grant that designation only to the Yezidis, excluding Christians in yet another example of President Obama's tendency to side with Islam against Christianity. (See my article on Obama as the 'anti-Constantine'.)

Regarding the Orthodox Christian position on genocide declaration, I only recall one formal statement by an Orthodox entity in the Americas, that from the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Chicago back in November 2015. Patriarch Kirill and  Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of the Moscow Patriarchate have both openly referred to Islamic persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa as genocide (while covering for Islam, it is true). Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America discussed the genocide issue and its relation to the Way of the Cross, in a compelling address at the Global Forum on Armenian Genocide in April 2015. Forgive me if I have missed any other announcements or news reports.

We hope and pray that this important move by the Obama administration be followed by aid and support for Christians suffering under Muslim persecution, including preferential consideration in refugee processing, immigration, and other means of assistance.

See also my earlier articles on the urgency of declaring Islamic State's persecution of Christians genocide:

The Islamic State beheads Coptic Christians on the beach in Libya: two of the thousands of New Martyrs under the sword of Islam in the 21st century. (Source: Islamic State Video)

"In groundbreaking move, US declares Christians among victims of ISIS genocide",  Catholic World Report, March 17, 2016:

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2016 / 08:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Secretary of State John Kerry declared Thursday that Christians, Yezidis, Shi’a Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minorities are victims of ISIS genocide.

Secretary Kerry announced at a news conference that “in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.” Daesh is another name for the Islamic State, or ISIS.

The announcement is groundbreaking because the term is rarely used to describe ongoing atrocities committed by a state or non-state actor. It is the “crime of crimes,” according to the United Nations, because it involves the intentional destruction, “in whole or in part,” of an entire people.

Thursday’s announcement came after reports from earlier in the week surfaced that the State Department was expected to miss the March 17 deadline for announcing whether or not it would declare genocide. Congress mandated the deadline in the Omnibus spending bill passed in December.

Significantly, the move followed the European Parliament’s declaration of genocide issued in early February. Advocates for Middle Eastern Christians say that the declarations by both the U.S. and the European Union could put further pressure on the United Nations Security Council to declare genocide and refer the matter to the International Criminal Court where the perpetrators could be tried.

Thursday marked the first time the U.S. has declared a genocide is taking place since 2004 in Darfur.

Initially, there had been some question as to whether Christians should be included as genocide victims. A report last fall suggested that the State Department’s declaration would only include Yazidis, based on reports from the Middle East that were limited in both their timespan and geographical scope.

The Knights of Columbus, along with the advocacy group In Defense of Christians, released a 300-page report last week documenting atrocities committed against Christians by the Islamic State. That report was sent to the State Department which had requested it.

In the report were personal accounts of displacement, theft, murder of family members, torture, sexual slavery, and numerous other acts of violence committed by ISIS against Christians in Iraq, Syria, and North Africa.

Advocacy groups hailed the declaration as an international call to action to prevent further genocide against the minority groups.

“Today's announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry is correct and truly historic,” stated Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, in response. “For one of the few times in our history, the United States has designated an ongoing situation as genocide, and the State Department is to be commended for having the courage to say so.”

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution Monday expressing “the sense of Congress” that Christians, Yezidis, and other Middle Eastern minorities are genocide victims. The Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have also acknowledged ISIS’ actions as genocide.

“By joining its voice to that of the House of Representatives, the American people, and the international community, the United States today makes clear to ISIS that its attempt to stamp out religious minorities must cease,” Anderson stated.

“(Secretary Kerry) used the word that has the moral authority to raise the international consciousness and compel the international community of responsible nations to act,” the group In Defense of Christians said in its response to the genocide label.

“By proclaiming that they are victims of genocide, the United States has done a great justice to the victims of the atrocities committed by ISIS, including the over 1100 Christians who have been killed because of their faith,” the statement continued. “Hearing the voice of the United States speak this truth will restore the hope in the hearts of those who are still fearing for their lives and struggling to survive in the Middle East.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), sponsor of the House resolution on genocide commuted by ISIS, also hailed the secretary’s declaration.

“I sincerely hope that the genocide designation will raise international consciousness, end the scandal of silence, and create the preconditions for the protection and reintegration of these ancient faith communities into their ancestral homelands,” he stated.

“Christians, Yezidis, and others remain an essential part of the Middle East's rich tapestry of religious and ethnic diversity. They now have new cause for hope.”