(CNSNews.com) – The Knights of Columbus, along with In Defense of Christians, released a comprehensive report Thursday documenting eyewitness accounts of Christians who have been killed, kidnapped, raped, or sold into slavery at the hands of ISIS.
The report was presented to the State Department Wednesday.
Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson said at a National Press Club briefing that the evidence contained in the report as well as other evidence “fully support and, I suggest to you, compel the conclusion that a reasonable grounds exist to believe the crime of genocide has been committed against Christians in the region.”
The deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry to state the administration’s stance on the matter, as required by the omnibus spending bill passed last December, is fast approaching.
Kerry has until March 17 to declare whether “the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists” constitutes genocide.
“History will record the recent atrocities committed against religious minorities in the Middle East as genocide,” Anderson said. “The question is whether America will be remembered as courageous as in the case of Darfur or as something much less so as in the case of Rwanda.”
The report documents the deaths of 1,131 Iraqi Christians between 2003 and June 9, 2014. It contains 24 pages of witness statements collected between February and March 2016, and documents attacks, including attacks on 125 Iraqi churches from 2003 to 2014.
The report also contains a legal brief arguing that the crimes committed meet the criteria of the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987 and the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
“This is not a case of precipitous action,” Anderson emphasized, pointing out that “the European parliament, various national governments, legal experts, religious and civil leaders and genocide scholars and candidates of both political parties here in the United States, including former Secretary of State Clinton, all have called what is happening to Christians in the region genocide.
“But what are we to say of the prospect that the U.S. State Department would find itself standing apart, standing apart from this emerging world and national consensus?” Anderson asked.
Anderson told reporters that the request for the fact finding report provided to the State Department came four weeks ago from Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein.
“Why the State Department has not conducted its own investigation in the region I don’t know,” Anderson said during the question and answer session, “for example the State Department under Secretary Powell sent as many 24 experts to investigate the situation in Darfur.”
“For the United States government to stand alone in denying that this is genocide would be shameful and an abdication not just of leadership but of cooperation and common sense,” Anderson concluded. “Should the State Department not provide the equivalent of an indictment of ISIS genocide we fear that it will be the State Department itself that will face the indictment of history.”
Bishop Anba Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt, for the UK, spoke on the National Press Club panel as well, calling for an inclusion of Christians in any genocide designation by the State Department. He said he fears that “people will see that the international community has supported one group against another and they will see that other as fair game.”
“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 not only in that country but in the region,” Angaelos said.
The bishop asked how Christians could possibly be excluded from the designation “if they are suffering the same fate at the same time at the hands of the same perpetrators under the same conditions.”
“What’s happening in the Middle East and in Syria is criminal and is an indictment of our humanity if left unaddressed,” he concluded.
Dr. Gregory Stanton, research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University, also called on the State Department to use the word “genocide” to describe the persecution of Middle East Christians by ISIS.
“Why are we waiting to use the word?” Stanton asked. “I’ll tell you why, because the word packs moral force, and it requires action, and what we have here is a case where the administration is not ready to make the determination, because it is not determined to do what is necessary to really stop ISIS with the full force that it needs to do.”