An Iraqi Christian woman fleeing the violence in the Iraqi city of Mosul sits inside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chaldean Church in Telkaif, Iraq, in July 2014. (CNS photo/Reuters)
“If this is not genocide,
then truly this word has no moral or legal meaning.” That’s according to
a Chaldean Catholic priest from Iraq, speaking at a press event today accompanying
the release of a new report documenting ISIS atrocities against Christians.
report is the work of the group In Defense of Christians and the Knights of
Columbus, in an effort to convince the US State Department to declare that ISIS’
actions against Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq constitute
“genocide.” Congress gave the State Department a March 17 deadline to determine
if ISIS is engaging in genocide; last year it was reported that the Obama
administration was planning to designate members of the Yazidi minority in Iraq
as victims of genocide, but not Christians.
News Agency’s report on today’s press conference:
report is the result of a fact-finding mission to Iraq and contains a legal
brief sent to [US Secretary of State] Kerry as well as extensive documentation
and testimonies of victims of Islamic State militants. It contains new stories
“the world has not heard,” In Defense of Christians president Toufic Baaklini
of the stories was that of “Khalia,” a middle-aged woman who was captured with
47 other persons and held for 15 days. “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,” the report stated. “Ultimately, the hostages were left
in the desert to walk to Erbil.”
includes testimonies of Christian women who were sold by the Islamic State as
sex slaves, with age-specific prices listed on a “menu.” … There is also an
extensively-sourced list of attacks against Christians in Iraq, Syria, and
North Africa, and testimonies on the deleterious effects of displacement on the
mental and emotional health of persons. …
21 Coptic Christians murdered by Islamic State militants on the Libyan coast
last February, in a video titled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of
the Cross,” were targeted not “for any other reason than they were Christians,”
said Bishop Anba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.
State Department designation of genocide, while not imposing specific legal
consequences, would carry great moral weight, panel members insisted.
and gentlemen, if Christians are excluded from the classification of genocide,
my concern, my fear, my expectation is that we will be responsible for a
greater and more ruthless campaign of persecution against them, not only in
that country, but in the region,” Bishop Angaelos stated.
if you recognize genocide for one group and not the other,” he continued, “on
the ground in the Middle East when you get people who want to actually
persecute minorities, what they will do is see this as a green light to say
that the international community is backing one group and not another…they will
take soft targets.”
In addition to this report, the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of
Christians have also sponsored a petition asking
that the US acknowledge ISIS’ actions against Christians as genocide. According
to In Defense of Christians, 65,000 people have signed the petition so far;
earlier this week Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez encouraged
Catholics to join him in signing it:
We cannot imagine the reality,
but it is true the Christian presence may one day be extinguished in the
lands where the light of faith first burned. And it is unimaginable and
unconscionable that our government along with most of the governments of the
Western world has remained silent while this martyrdom goes on.
political designation of “genocide” has implications. First it is telling the
truth. What is happening to Christians in the Middle East is a crime against
humanity that cries out to God.
that, a genocide designation gives the international community a moral claim to
stop the violence and punish those responsible. It also gives a special status
to Christians fleeing the persecution a right to be treated as refugees, and
to reclaim their homes and properties once the violence is ended.