Recognition for Middle East Genocide Grows

MiddleEastChristiansAs the world continues to debate and fight against ISIS, the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom at Benedictine College is asking for continued prayers for the Christians, Yezidis, and Shias who are constantly being attacked by the terrorist group.

The latest attack was on Easter Sunday, when a Taliban group in Pakistan detonated bombs at a park where Christian families were celebrating the Resurrection. Their spokesman stated that Christians were the target.

On March 14, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously acknowledged the ISIS killings of religious minorities as a genocide. On March 17, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech agreeing with Congress’s assessment of the situation in the Middle East. Now the issue has jumped across the Atlantic and into the United Kingdom, where it is being debated in Parliament.

When Secretary Kerry addressed the nation, he said,

“In my judgement, Daesh [the Arabic name for ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions. Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

The declaration comes in part thanks to the Knights of Columbus, who sent an in-depth, 280-page research document to the State Department showcasing how ISIS’s actions constitute genocide.

By now the militancy of ISIS against religious and cultural minorities is common news – as Kerry stated in his speech, ISIS has killed and enslaved Christians, targeted Shia Turkmen, and attacked Shia Muslims throughout ISIS territory in the Middle East. ISIS has stated that it regards Shia Muslims as “disbelievers and apostates” and believes that “it is a duty imposed upon ISIS to kill them, to fight them, to displace them, and to cleanse the land of their filth.” Yezidis are, according to ISIS, “pagans” and “devil-worshippers,” and Christians are no better – ISIS has said that it will “conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.”

There is absolutely no question – nor has there been for some time – that ISIS’s goal is to rid the earth of any religion that is not their own. But calling the war a genocide has legal implications and consequences that can allow the government to do more to stop the horrors of ISIS.

The United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide says, in part, that:

  • Genocide is “a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish;”
  • Genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide are all punishable
  • All people involved in any way with the advocacy of genocide, regardless of political or social status, shall be punished for their actions;
  • Any “Contracting Party” can ask the United Nations for help in the prevention and suppression of genocide.

The attention the killings have received in the United States is pushing the issue more strongly into international news: Patriarch Kirill believes his meeting with Pope Francis may have sparked Congress’s vote, saying, “We did ask them to say that it is genocide, that it is killing. There was no answer, and now there is one because the voice of the East and West united and said the most important thing that worries all of us today.”

The European Parliament declared ISIS’s actions to be genocide in February, but the United Kingdom is torn.

In December, a letter was written to Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to do so, signed by 75 members of the House of Lords, including the former head of the United Kingdom military and the former head of MI5, but Cameron said that such a declaration should be made by the courts, rather than by politicians.

David Alton, of the House of Lords, addressed his House on the issue, saying, “History proves that once the word ‘genocide’ is used to designate heinous and target crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop these atrocities.”

There is now legislation before the House of Lords that would call the brutality of ISIS a genocide. If the legislation is passed in the House of Lords, it will advance to the House of Commons.

“Today the world’s Christians are being persecuted like they have never been before, neither in the Roman Empire, nor in the Soviet Union. And we are living as if nothing is happening: it is not us who are being persecuted, but it something far away,” Patriarch Kirill said.

We must not ignore what is happening. While we cannot do as much as Congress, we can help with our prayers. The Memorare Army’s millions of prayers are offered for religious liberty – you can join yours here.

The Gregorian Institute is Benedictine College’s initiative to promote Catholic identity in public life by equipping leaders (the Gregorian speech digest), training leaders (the Gregorian Fellows), defending the faith (the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom), and celebrating Catholic identity (the Catholic Hall of Fame).

Eileen Wittig