While I prefer to speak of our age as the New Era of Christian Martyrdom, by the secular definition, the global Muslim persecution of Christians, especially that perpetrated by the Islamic State in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, clearly should be classified as genocide.
Observers have been calling it genocide for years now, including the highly respected Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), head of the Department of External Church Relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, and Pope Francis I of Rome.
Now the issue is front and center in a unique way, as the U.S State Department is set to release its findings on whether ISIS is indeed committing genocide against minority groups in the Middle East. This report will influence U.S. policy on everything from refugee issues, to immigration, to the war against ISIS, to aid to Middle East and African nations, and so on.
Kirsten Powers, in an important article in USA Today, emphasizes the urgency of the genocide ruling:
Invoking the “g word” to recognize this fact is not just a matter of semantics. “Groups that have been designated as genocide victims are much more likely to receive military protection, including arming and training their militias for self-defense, which is always the best defense against genocide,” Gregory Stanton, the former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, told me. “Members of such groups are also much more likely to receive preferential treatment as bona fide refugees under the U.N. convention and protocols on the status of refugees.”
An article in CRUX sets out the concerns many Christians have that the Obama administration is preparing to exclude Christians from its category of groups suffering genocide:
A group of 30 Christian leaders, including Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, has asked for a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in advance of the State Department’s declaration of genocides taking place around the world.
The group believes Middle East Christians should be included in any listing of genocide victims based on their treatment by the Islamic State, commonly called ISIS.
“We recently learned that a State Department finding is imminent that ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidis,” an Iraqi ethnic group that traces its origins to biblical times, said the Dec. 4 letter to Kerry. “We would wholeheartedly endorse that finding, but we are deeply troubled by the prospect that the department’s statement will either omit or reserve judgment on whether ISIS is committing genocide against Christians” in the Nineveh area since summer 2014.
The State Department seems to be paving the way for exclusion of Christians from its findings through a series of statements and press reports. The CRUX article continues:
One reason given for the State Department not counting Christians as genocide victims, according to the letter, is that it “lacks sufficient information about the experience of the Christian communities in Nineveh during that time to conclude that genocide took place.” […]
Another reason is a press report indicating that “unlike Yazidis, ISIS gives Christians a ‘choice’: They can convert to Islam, pay an Islamic tax, or be killed, enslaved, tortured, or held hostage. The implication is that ISIS abides by traditional Islamic sharia, under which other ‘people of the book’ — Christians and Jews — pay a tax in exchange for protection by their Muslim rulers,” the letter said. “We would like the opportunity to explain why this is emphatically not the case.”
Note the naked hypocrisy here. The Obama administration steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the Islamic State as “Islamic,” yet when it comes to the question of whether ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, the State Department presents ISIS’ application of the terms of the dhimma contract in offering Christians the classic three choices mandated by Islamic law, as evidence that ISIS is not committing genocide against Christians, but showing them tolerance.
Only the devil himself would make such an argument.
The letter from the Christian leaders goes on to say:
“The world recoiled when it learned that ISIS jihadis had stamped Christian homes in Mosul with the red letter ‘N’ for “Nazarene” in summer 2014, but the elimination of Christians in other towns and cities in Iraq and Syria began long beforehand. ISIS genocidal campaign against Christians continues today, with hundreds of Christians remaining in ISIS captivity, and with summary executions, including by beheadings and crucifixions, occurring as recently as only a few months ago.”
It added, “Pope Francis has called ISIS’ crimes against Christians by their proper name: ‘genocide.’ The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Christian leaders in the Middle East have done so as well. We agree, and are hopeful that, once you have seen the evidence, you will, too.”
In arguing for a meeting, the letter said it was “critically important that the State Department consider the best available evidence before making any official pronouncement that rejects allegations that Christian are, along with Yazidis, targets of ongoing genocidal acts.”
In a similar effort reported on by the Daily Signal, a conference of academic, religious and media experts urged Secretary of State John Kerry to include Christians in the genocide ruling:
Last week, at a panel organized by The Heritage Foundation to discuss modern Christian martyrs, academic, religious, and media leaders discussed the persecution–as well as the inattention being paid to the issue by developed nations including the United States.
“I am always struck by how utterly abandoned the patriarchs and church leaders [in the Middle East] whose lives are on the line every day … how utterly abandoned they feel by the West, and particularly the United States,” said Kathryn Jean Lopez, a senior fellow with the National Review Institute and one of the event’s co-hosts.
According to recent estimates, the Christian population in Iraq has dropped to roughly 260,000, down from 1.5 million a decade ago.
The shift likely reflects continuing forced expulsions of Christians from northern Iraq and Syria, as well as abductions and murders by extremist leaders who, earlier this year, declared the coexistence of Muslims with Jews and Christians impossible according to the Quran.
“Forcing a population to leave [its homeland] is one of the five tests, and they don’t all need to be met, but it’s one of the tests for genocide,” said Patrick E. Kelly, executive director of the St. John Paul II National Shrine and a member of the Knights of Columbus. Kelly was referring to the five tenets of qualifying characteristics that constitute Article II of the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention definition of genocide.
Those qualifying characteristics include murder, causing serious harm, imposing conditions of life that attempt to destroy, preventing births, and forcibly transferring children outside a specific national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
“I think we have a tendency to think governments always know what’s going on on the ground,” Kelly continued. “They don’t always have the best information. But churches often do, because of the grassroots, with-the-people nature of parishes and ministries. If governments say they don’t have the evidence, they can do more to get the evidence, but they should be listening to the faith communities as well.”
As of this week, according to sources, the State Department does not plan to include Christians in a statement to be released on the status of victims of ISIS-inflicted genocide in the region. The statement will include Yazidis, the Kurdish religious minority.
Carey Lodge, writing in Christianity Today, reports on the efforts of the European Syriac Union (ESU) to influence the Obama State Department’s findings:
“It is our moral and historical duty” to acknowledge that “Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people face another genocide in the Middle East and existential threat,” a statement from the ESU said.
“Commemoration of Victims of Genocides and Crimes against Humanity is [an] essential responsibility to the humanity and international community. Commemoration [of] past atrocities around the world is [a] strong sign of remembrance of the victims and solidarity with the current threatened groups, ethnic and religious communities.”
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Monday called for groups systematically persecuted by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — Christians, Yazidis, Shi’as, Turkmen and Shabaks — to be recognised as victims of genocide.
“The hallmark of genocide is the intent to destroy a national, racial, ethnic, or religious group, in whole or in part,” said USCIRF chairman Robert George.
“ISIL’s intent to destroy religious groups that do not subscribe to its extremist ideology in the areas in Iraq and Syria that it controls, or seeks to control, is evident in, not only its barbarous acts, but also its own propaganda.”
The population of Christians in the Middle East has fallen “in an incessant way” over recent years, the ESU said.
The fall of Mosul, once considered the heartland of Iraq’s Christian population, and the occupation of the Ninevah plains by ISIS has led to a mass exodus of Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian people, the union added. They face “annihilation and destruction” under ISIS, it said…
In a statement to Christian Today, spokesman for the ESU David Vergili said:
“Christians face another genocide with a non state actor which aggravate and complex the situation. In this regards, the rapid action by the international community is vital in order to stop metastasising of the harm inflicted in these ancient communities.
Although the U.S. State Department has been seeding its reasons for probable exclusion of Christians from the genocide ruling through its various statements, they are not fooling anyone. Some Christian leaders, such as Chaldean Bishop Francis Kalabat of Michigan, sharply criticize the Obama administration for its persistent refusal to acknowledge Muslim genocide of Christians:
The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church for Michigan and the eastern half of the U.S. sharply criticized the Obama administration Wednesday, saying it has largely ignored the suffering of Christians displaced by war in Syria and Iraq and should do more to protect and resettle them.
Testifying before a U.S. House subcommittee, Bishop Francis Kalabat of Southfield said while the State Department may soon declare that the Yazidi people, a religious minority in Iraq, face genocide at the hands of the Islamic State or ISIS, it leaves unaddressed problems faced by other religious minorities.
“There are more than 150,000 Iraqi Christians who are now displaced in northern Iraq or are refugees in other countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey,” Kalabat said. “There are countless Christian villages in Syria that have been taken over by ISIS and have encountered genocide, and the Obama administration refuses to recognize their plight. … I say, shame on you.”
Most likely, the Obama administration will not label Muslim persecution of Christians genocide, as it would be in direct conflict with Obama’s narrative, that there is nothing inherently Islamic about the Islamic State. Admit genocide against the Yazidis, by all means. Give up a few points there to provide the appearance of action and toughness. But to acknowledge that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians would be to admit that there is a specifically religious dimension to the persecution, thus immediately bringing Islam itself under even greater scrutiny.
Too late, Mr. President. More and more people are waking up and coming to realize that there is something very dark and sinister at the core of Islam.
Islam is the problem. It mandates jihad and persecution against Christians, Jews and all non-Muslims. The Koran says what it means and means what it says:
Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e. Islam] among the people of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Sura 9:29)
Why don’t you repent, Mr. President, Mr. Secretary, and join us? Call Muslim persecution of Christians by its name: Genocide. Your conscience will thank you for it. So will Christians the world over. The Islamic State will continue committing genocide regardless of what you do, unless Putin stops them.
Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.