WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Congress unanimously voted to do something Obama's administration has so far refused to do: declare that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria. Some are surprised at the unanimous bipartisan support for the declaration.
According to United Nations' guidelines, genocide encompasses:
any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such; killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part ... .
The genocide designation would make ISIS members answerable to international courts.
The Obama administration, however, has been reluctant to use the term "genocide" to describe what's been happening to Middle-Eastern Christians for the last few years. It would allow Christian refugees privileged status for immigration and other forms of aid, including military training.
The State Department, however, has no dedicated resources to investigate incidents of genocide and is instead relying on various organizations to lobby for the support of their constituents.
Extensive testimony from refugees and witnesses is being collected by various groups. A 240-page report sent recently to Secretary of State John Kerry, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the group In Defense of Christians, outlines thousands of blood-chilling accounts of rape, persecution and murder perpetrated by ISIS against Christians.
Obama is admitting Christians are being persecuted. In his Christmas Day address he said, "In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL."
According to the Center For Religious Freedom's Nina Shea, since the beginning of Syria's civil war five years ago, the U.S. government has only allowed 53 Syrian Catholics into the country while it has allowed asylum to tens of thousands of Muslims. In fact, as ChurchMilitant.com reported earlier, the government denied a visa to an Iraqi Catholic nun when she wanted to come to the United States and speak about the atrocities against Christians in Iraq.
One reason the State Department is denying Christians the "genocide" designation is because a recent Holocaust Memorial Museum report said ISIS gives Christians the option to pay a tax to avoid conversion or death, as opposed to Yazidis and other minorities that have no other option than death. Critics say, however, that often the tax on Christians is so heavy they are eventually sold into slavery or killed.
Robert Spencer, a leading researcher on Islam and founder of JihadWatch.org, spoke to ChurchMilitant.com about the House resolution:
The Islamic State has destroyed Christian communities that had existed since the time of Christ. Numerous bishops from the area have cried out to the West for help. The State Department's unwillingness to call this genocide what it is manifests yet again the Obama administration's craven unwillingness to speak honestly about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat — especially when Christians are the victims of that jihad.
Obama said in December that in 90 days he would submit to Congress' evaluation of the situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria. Congress mandated he has until March 17 to decide on the genocide designation.