A leading Catholic organization is calling on the United States to join others around the world in calling the Islamic State’s treatment of Christians “genocide,” a decision that the State Department is currently pondering with a legal review.
“ISIS is committing genocide — the ‘crime of crimes’ — against Christians and other religious groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya,” said a report released Thursday by the Knights of Columbus. “It is time for the United States to join the rest of the world by naming it and by taking action against it as required by law.”
The State Department is conducting a legal review and has a congressionally mandated deadline of March 17 to determine whether the Islamic State is committing genocide against religious minorities. State asked the Knights of Columbus to produce a report as to why the actions specifically against Christians qualifies as genocide.
The European Parliament, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have all declared the Islamic State’s actions against religious minorities to be genocide. However, the United States is taking a more deliberative approach.
“This is something the State Department is continuing to look at but certainly has not in anyway delayed the administration taking aggressive action to protect religious minorities that are being targeted by ISIL, including Christians that we know are being targeted by ISIL in that region of the world,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told TheBlaze this week.
The report says that “a finding of genocide does not require the killing of an entire group. The words of the U.N. Convention on Genocide and the U.S. statute based on it are clear that what is required are acts aimed at destroying a group ‘in whole or in part.’” However, the report adds, large-scale murder has been a reality:
Murder of Christians is commonplace. Many have been killed in front of their own families. The Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, many of whose flock lived on the Nineveh plain or in Syria, reports that 500 people were killed by ISIS during its takeover of Mosul and the surrounding region. In Syria, where the organization Aid to the Church in Need has reported on mass graves of Christians,12 Patriarch Younan estimates the number of Christians “targeted and killed by Islamic terrorist bands” at more than 1,000.
It further states:
Shockingly, some see what is happening at the hands of ISIS as not genocidal to Christians. At the root of this argument seems to be the idea that Christians have not been targeted in the same way as others. This is not true. First, Christians have been attacked throughout the region, not simply in the Nineveh area or only during the summer of 2014. Christians have been attacked and killed by ISIS and its affiliates in Syria, Libya, Yemen and surrounding areas. Even before ISIS was constituted, Christians found themselves victims of its predecessors: the Islamic State in Iraq, Al Qaeda and other radical groups.
The U.N. Convention says there is “ample precedent for finding that forced deportation — often in concert with killing, rape and other forms of violence — qualifies as genocide,” according to the report.
The Knights of Columbus conducted a fact-finding mission in Iraq. The report explains of a heroic instance by a woman named Khalia, who was captured with 47 other Christians”
During her 15 days in captivity, she rebuffed demands to convert, despite a gun being put to her head and a sword to her neck. She literally fought off ISIS militants as they tried to rape the girls, and again later when they tried to take a 9-year-old as a bride. Because of the abuse, 14 men gave in to ISIS’ demands and said they would convert to Islam. Khalia would not.
Ultimately, the hostages were left in the desert to walk to Erbil. Others in Kurdistan affirmed without prompting that “she had saved many people.”
The report explains it is focused on making the case for officially labeling the attacks on Christians as genocide — done at the request of the State Department — but is not ignoring the genocide of other religions minorities.
“ISIS has also targeted Yazidis and other religious minority groups in a manner consistent with genocide,” the report says. “Thus, our contention is not that Christians should be designated as the sole group facing genocide, but rather, that given the overwhelming evidence and the international consensus on this issue, that the United States government should not exclude Christians from such a finding. Doing so would be contrary to fact.”
Read the report below.