The unspeakable crimes committed by the Islamic State, a self-identified Sunni militant group formerly known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) get worse every day. Beheadings, stonings, live burials, and crucifixions are all tactics used by the extremists as they attempt to wipe out Iraq and Syria's minority religious groups, like the Yazidis and the Shiites.
As the Islamic State claims to be waging war in the name of Islam, with the end goal of restoring the Islamic Caliphate, it is up to Muslim leaders to denounce their actions and reject any sort of religious justification for the horrors they have wrought in Iraq and Syria.
Many have already done that. Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation called the actions of the Islamic State a "crime that cannot be tolerated" in July. Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders from the UK made a video to condemn the Islamic State in July, and professors from the ancient and influential al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, have also publicly rejected the Caliphate. Most recently, the Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, Egypt's top Muslim scholar, denounced the Islamic State as an "extremist and bloody group" on Tuesday.
The Vatican is encouraging more Muslim leaders to speak out against the Islamic State. A statement released Tuesday by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said in part:
The dramatic plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious communities and ethnic minorities in Iraq requires a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, as well as those engaged in interreligious dialogue and all people of good will.
All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?
Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to reestablish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced. While recalling the need for an ethical management of human societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.
In the statement, the Vatican noted that, "the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians" oppose the "Restoration of the Caliphate" proposed by the Islamic State.
As coexistence is the basis on which healthy relationships between religions are founded, the current atrocities perpetrated by ISIS against minority groups are a threat to interreligious dialogue, the statement implied. "No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity," it said.