Congressmen Seek Declaration: Slaughter of Middle East Christians is Genocide

Lauretta Brown | December 17, 2015 | 11:51am EST
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Yazidi Kurdish women chant slogans during a protest against the Islamic State group's invasion on Sinjar city, in Dohuk, northern Iraq, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. (AP Photo)

( – A bipartisan group of lawmakers called on President Barack Obama and Congress Wednesday to call the Islamic State’s (ISIS) targeting of Christians in the Middle East “genocide.”

“We are here today because ISIS continues to commit genocide against Christians and because the White House is considering a public genocide declaration that would exclude Christians,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) at at a panel hosted by In Defense of Christians. He was joined by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

Smith quoted Obama’s words in August 2014 following the targeting of the Yazidi minority on Mount Sinjar, where he stated, “We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide.”

“Almost a year and a half later, this is the closest that the administration has come to openly acknowledging that ISIS has actually committed genocide and that Christians are among the victims of that genocide,” Smith emphasized, “Now I would suggest respectfully that there is absolutely nothing ‘potential’ - to use the president’s word - about the genocide being waged against Christians and Yazidis. It’s a fact.”

Dr. Gregory Stanton, research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University, explained how the targeting of Christians and other minority groups by ISIS fit the United Nation’s definition of genocide adopted in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Stanton quoted the UN’s definition of genocide as: “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; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) holds a photo of the 21 Coptic Christians being martyred. (AP Photo)

“Every single one of these acts that is listed has been committed by ISIS against Yazidis, Christians, against Shia Muslims and against other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria,” Stanton said. “ISIS has targeted all of these groups.”

“They have openly declared their intent to kill every Yazidi male and enslave every Yazidi female,” Stanton pointed out, “but they also have said that Christians unless they will convert should either pay a tax, that is a jizya tax, or convert to Islam, and if they won’t, they’ll be slaughtered.”

“Unfortunately, a recent report by the Holocaust Memorial Museum concluded that this jizya tax meant that there wasn’t the intent to kill everyone who was a Christian,” Stanton said, adding that, “the problem with that is the jizya tax for ISIS is a lie. It’s an ISIS lie, because they have set the tax so high that very few people can pay it. So what happens? They can’t pay it, and so they refuse to convert, to renounce Jesus Christ their Lord and Saviour, and they refuse, and they are beheaded.”

Nina Shea, another panelist and a fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, criticized the idea that Christians are not targeted for genocide due to the jizya tax option.

“This tax contract is to provide protection and the right to worship in exchange,” Shea said. “In fact, ISIS provides neither, and we know this, because the tax has been applied both in Raqqa and in Mosul. There is no evidence of any Christian, of any open Christian activity in either of those cities today. All of the churches are closed or destroyed or have been converted to mosques in those two cities.”

Shea also pointed out that the Obama administration’s former coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, Alberto Fernandez, called the jizya a “Salafi Caliphate publicity stunt” in a report for the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Members of Congress who spoke following the panel called for the passage of a resolution, introduced in the House in September, which calls the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East by ISIS and others “genocide.”

“This is systematic extermination of religious minorities in the Middle East, including those who share the same heritage I do. I am of Armenian and Assyrian descent,” Eshoo emphasized.

“When you are being persecuted simply because of what you believe, when you are systematically targeted for extrication, there’s no reason to continue to discuss this,” Fortenberry said. “That is genocide.”

As Fortenberry spoke, he held up a picture of the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS in February.

Rohrabacher said in his remarks that he wanted to thank those present who “try to save millions, several million people who are targeted today for slaughter and extinction by an evil force.”

“That evil force happens to hate all of us, but they have targeted especially the Christians in the Middle East. It is up to us whether we’re Christians, Jews, Muslims, or atheists but are moral human beings on this planet to take a stand right now together,” Rohrabacher emphasized. “This issue of saving the Christians and Yazidis from genocide should cross all the lines of decency and humanity and draw us together with people.”

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