Two weeks ago, investigative journalist Michael Isikoff leaked information that the Obama administration is concerned with recognizing the horrifying atrocities against the Yazidi community in Iraq as genocide. He also revealed that the administration was going to exclude Christians from the same genocide resolution. This has upset many people across the world.
Fifty-one genocide scholars have said that the crimes committed against Christians and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria meets even the strictest definition of genocide.
I am not one of those experts, but for a week, I have been speaking to policymakers and experts throughout the world. Last week in Stockholm, the European parliamentarian, Lars Adaktusson (Swedish Christian Democrats), arranged a seminar about a resolution that he is drafting in the European Parliament of which language gives the victims of this genocide justice.
Before the seminar, I spoke to the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Mor Aphrem Karim II and he said:
"To not call it a genocide would be to double persecute the victims of monstrous behavior of the perpetrators, the terrorist group ISIS. Atrocities that escalated to a level not seen before in modern history. When we claim it's a genocide, we do it based on the criteria of the convention and we have no doubt that Pope Francis is right about his conclusion when he also calls it a genocide."
Sabah Elia was an attendee of the seminar. 42 of her relatives were abducted by ISIS in February of this year. Her statement, which included pictures of 15 kidnapped children celebrating a birth day party, left no eye dry. She begged the world to help her get those children back.
In the United States, a broad coalition of policy makers, religious leaders, and advocacy groups have been calling on the Obama administration to recognize these heinous acts as a genocide. Congress has taken action to recognize the genocide, has over 150 bipartisan Members of Congress, and has cosponsored H. Con Res 75, which recognizes the collective persecution of religious minorities as genocide.
This week, Steve Oshana, Executive Director of A Demand For Action (ADFA), has arranged several meetings with American policy makers to convince them of the importance of having such a resolution passed. ADFA also worked with the resolution sponsors to amend parts of the resolution to reflect the unique ethnic persecution of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac people.
At a meeting on Capitol Hill, Kristina Olney, Director of Government Relations at IDC said to me:
"Failure to call ISIS' mass murder of Christians and other religious minorities in addition to Yazids by its proper name--genocide--would be an act of denial as grave as the U.S. refusal to recognize the Rwandan genocide in 1994. It is a core national security interest and moral interest of the United States to prevent genocide--and that begins by calling it by its proper name."
I took some time to study the UN Genocide Convention, myself. I thought it would be hard to prove the case of a genocide, it surprised me that the elements are very clear. I stand with those that want genocide recognition.
For more than ten years I have been reporting about the consequences of the invasion of Iraq. One of the major failures that followed the topple of Saddam Hussein was the protection of the religious minorities, who before the fall, were protected by the dictator. They were left vulnerable. More than 100 churches in Iraq have been demolished or converted to Mosques. Out of 1, 300, 000 Christian Assyrian/Chaldeans/Syriac and Armenians in Iraq, only 250,000 remain. Clergymen have been slaughtered. Thousands of Christians have been kidnapped. Our ancient cultural heritage is being destroyed and we face the threat of extinction.
In Just three years, 600,000 out of the 1.8 million Christians in Syria have left the country. Nearly 10,000 have been killed, 124 churches have been destroyed, two archbishops have been kidnapped and remain missing, and seven priests have been slaughtered.
Mr President, words matter. When president Putin recognized this genocide it echoed all over the world. The "G" word should also be recognized by the president of the United States.