(CNSNews.com) – At a press conference to discuss the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said what is taking place at the hands of the Islamic State is “genocide.”
“Our administration has been reluctant to call this what it is,and it is genocide,” Perkins said at FRC headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. “And there’s a reason.”
“Because if we recognize what is happening in Syria and Iraq, we then have a moral and a legal obligation to do something,” Perkins said.
The BBC reported in February that Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, -- who is Syrian and was born in Damascus -- said in 2014 that more than 1,000 Christians had been killed in that country, that entire villages have been cleared, and dozens of churches and Christian centers have been damaged or destroyed.
Perkins said he was calling on American Christians to take a stand against religious persecution both here and abroad and cited the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which requires the United States and, in particular, the State Department, National Security Council and the President of the United States, to take action against violations of the law.
“So we’re challenging Christians across America to stand up for our religious freedom here at home so that we can advocate for our brothers and sisters abroad,” Perkins said. “And we encourage Christians across this country to speak to their members of Congress to hold this administration accountable to the law – the current law, which says this is a priority.”
Perkins also referred to the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide – joined by 146 countries, including the United States -- that defines genocide as actions “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” (See document here.)
“When we look at the definition, according to the Genocide Convention, the definition of genocide – this prohibits the targeting of a religious group for the purposes of killing members; causing serious bodily or mental harm,” said Perkins.
“Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or part, or imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group or forcibly transporting children to another group,” he said..
Perkins continued, “That’s happening in Syria and Iraq. Our administration has been reluctant to call this what it is and it is genocide.”
“And there’s a reason,” Perkins said, “because if we recognize what is happening in Syria and Iraq we then have a moral and a legal obligation to do something.
“It’s time that we speak up as a country – but our country is only as strong, I believe, as its citizens -- and it’s time that the churches of America make this a priority to pray for, advocate for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities.
“As Christians we stand for the freedom of religion,” Perkins said. “Not just the Christian religion but every human being and their ability to live according to the dictates of their faith.”