After a months-long firestorm of protest, the U.S. State Department has announced that Christians should be included in a declaration of genocide which is being committed by ISIS militants against minority groups in the Middle East.
FoxNews.com is reporting that Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement yesterday, saying that the State Department believes that atrocities committed against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities are indeed genocide.
“In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” Kerry said at the State Department. (Daesh is another name for the Islamic State.)
He went on to accuse ISIS of “crimes against humanity” and “ethnic cleansing” and said the terror network is “genocidal” in what it says, believes and does.
The timing of Kerry’s announcement came as a surprise to most because it was made just one day after a State Department spokesman said they would miss the congressionally mandated March 17 deadline to make the decision.
It also comes in the wake of a unanimous nonbinding resolution which passed 393-0 in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 14.
While Kerry’s finding will not obligate the United States to take additional action against ISIS militants and does not prejudge any prosecution against its members, the rare declaration will have an enormous impact on persecuted Christians in the region.
According to Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, writing for National Review, the declaration might not bring military intervention but will aid in “raising humanitarian aid, receiving asylum, overcoming de facto discrimination in U.N. resettlement programs, receiving restitution and reparation for seized land, and securing a place at the peace-negotiations table.”
She adds: “It would also give these two-millennia-old Christian communities a sense of justice – something that still matters greatly to the families of Holocaust victims and that eludes the Armenian community.”
This is only the second time that the U.S. made a declaration of genocide. The first time was in 2004 when Secretary of State Colin Powell determined that atrocities committed in Sudan’s Darfur region constituted genocide.
As expected, lawmakers applauded the announcement.
“Secretary Kerry is finally making the right call,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement after the announcement Thursday. He added that “President Obama should step up and lay out the broad, overarching plan that’s needed to actually defeat and destroy ISIS. This administration’s long pattern of paralysis and ineffectiveness in combating these radical Islamist terrorists is unacceptable.”
Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson, whose organization has been working tirelessly to bring attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, was equally pleased, calling the State Departments announcement “correct and truly historic.”
“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. 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.”
He went on to thank the Secretary for his review of a nearly 300-page report submitted by the Knights detailing the atrocities committed against Christians at the hands of ISIS militants, including crucifixions, beheadings, kidnapping and enslavement.
“The United States and the world are united on this, and simply will not look the other way,” he said. “Following this declaration, America must continue to focus on those being killed in this genocide, and our country, and the international community, must make sure the slaughter ends and that these innocent people are protected. There is much work still to be done, but this represents an important step forward.”
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