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Petition Pressures US to Declare Genocide of Christians

IS flagThe Knights of Columbus are sponsoring an online petition to pressure Secretary of State John Kerry not to exclude Christians from an imminent pronouncement declaring the slaughter of religious minorities by ISIS in the Middle East to be acts of genocide. is reporting on the initiative led by the Knights to "declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide."

“Extensive and irrefutable evidence supports a finding that the so-called Islamic State’s mistreatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets this definition,” the petition states. “This evidence includes: assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders and deportations; torture; kidnapping for ransom; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam.”

The move to declare ISIS atrocities to be genocide has been gaining steam for months. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, (R-NE), sponsored a resolution that would declare, on behalf of the U.S. Congress, that actions committed by ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities is genocide.

The resolution expresses “the sense of Congress that those who commit or support atrocities against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities, including Yezidis, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka‘e, and Kurds, and who target them specifically for ethnic or religious reasons, are committing, and are hereby declared to be committing, ‘war crimes,’ ‘crimes against humanity,’ and ‘genocide.’”

state dept logoThe significance of this declaration is that it would allow the perpetrators of these atrocities to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has jurisdiction to prosecute crimes of genocide. This is the result of a 1948 decision by the United Nations, in response to the horrors of the Holocaust, to declare acts of genocide – which are defined as violence against a particular group of people with the intent of destroying the entire group – to be international crimes.

During a hearing held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Assistance on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was having an “additional evaluation” done to help him determine whether the systematic murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East—at the hands of the Islamic State and others—should be declared “genocide.”

Speculation about whether or not the State Department will include Christians in the designation has been swirling since October when word leaked that an official genocide designation was forthcoming that would only recognize a Yazidi genocide and not one against Christians. The reasons for the exclusion of Christians have been called “flimsy” and “point to political motives.”

As a result, Congress has mandated that Secretary John Kerry make a determination by March 16 on the precise question of whether “persecution . . . of Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists . . . constitutes genocide.”

“While other administrations have committed the sin of silence where genocide was concerned, none has officially signaled that it believes a brutally persecuted and displaced minority is not suffering ongoing genocide,” writes Nina Shea, of the Hudson Institute for Religious Freedom, for National Review Online. “Yet that would be the effect of excluding the Christians from an official listing of genocide victims. Despite foreseeable harm this would cause these Christians, the administration appears on track to do just that.”

Andrew Walther, who serves as vice president of media research and development for the Knights of Columbus, told CNS that there is “no shortage of evidence and no shortage of people who have come to the conclusion that Christians in the Middle East are victims of genocide.”

In fact, during Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Fortenberry told a moving story about a young Syrian man who was murdered by jihadists after refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

“I had the extraordinary privilege of being in the room with Pope Francis when he, in a very powerful moment, was given a small cross, a Christian crucifix,” Fortenberry told the Secretary of State. “That crucifix had belonged to a young Syrian man who had been captured by the jihadists, and he was told to choose: Convert or die. And he chose his ancient faith tradition. He chose Christ, and he was beheaded. His mother was able to recover the body, recover this cross, and bury him. She fled to Austria, which set the stage for this moment which I witnessed.”

He continued: “Mr. Secretary, this is repeating itself over and over and over again against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in the region. What I’m urging here today is that you use the authority and power of your office to call this genocide, to help restore the rich tapestry of the ancient faith traditions in the Middle East, to stop this assault on human dignity and civilization itself.”

Kerry responded by saying that he shared a “huge sense of revulsion” over these acts and said that he is “currently doing what I have to do, which is review very carefully the legal standards and precedents for whatever judgement is made.”

Thus far, more than 25,000 people have signed the Knights petition to “declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide.”

Click here to sign the petition.

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