Word is coming out of Washington that the Obama administration is seriously contemplating designating Yazidis as victims of ISIS genocide but not Syrian or Iraqi Christians.
How can this be? Both Christians and Yazidis’ are victims of ISIS oppression. Since ISIS took control of territory in northern and central Syria, and in border towns along the Turkish border, it has imposed sharia law in occupied towns and has made it clear it targets Christians. Dabig, the ISIS online publication, told the Christian world: “We will conquer Rome, break your crosses and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah.”
To put fear into the hearts of Christians, ISIS has committed scores of atrocious acts. The Catholic World Report, in a story “The Suffering of Christians in Syria” (Oct. 31, 2014), cited a nun who has worked in the country for years: “There are slaughterhouses, many slaughterhouses, in Syria where Christians are taken to be tortured and slaughtered. People who are not political, who do not choose or take sides in the conflict, are taken from their families, kidnapped, forced to deny their faith and then — whether they have or not — are killed, often by beheading.
"This is not about siding with the government, not about siding with President Assad, but about sheer persecution of a peaceful but vulnerable minority. Yet the world says so little, and often nothing at all.”
The ISIS policy toward Christians, “Submit to Islam or face the sword” also caught the attention of Obama’s State Department almost two years ago.
On Mach 3, 2014, a statement released by the U.S. titled “Christians Under Threat In Syria” read: "The United States deplores continued threats again Christians and other minorities in Syria, who are increasingly targeted by extremists. Last week in Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced it will force Syrian Christians to either convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death.
"These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights. ISIL has demonstrated time and again its disregard for Syrian lives, and it continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people. Although ISIL claims it is fighting the regime, its oppression of and senseless violence against Syrians, including the moderate Syrian opposition, demonstrates that it is fighting for nothing except the imposition of its own brand of tyranny….
"The Syrian people have a long history of tolerance and co-existence, but both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. We strongly condemn these abuses and urge all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion."
The situation is just as bad in Iraq. Today there are no Christians left in ISIS-held territories. When ISIS took Mosul in June 2014 and soon after conquered the Nineveh Plain, more than 120,000 Christians were forced to flee.
Over 2,000 Christians have been reported killed in Iraq in the wake of the fall of Mosul; such was the fate of an Assyrian man who was beaten to death for refusing to convert. In Mosul, all Christian churches (approximately 45), have been destroyed, repurposed for military use or converted to mosques—including the Church of the Virgin of Fatima in Faisaliah and the Church of Our Lady in Mosul.
Are these acts of Christian genocide?
Article 2 of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines 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 and causing seriously bodily or mental harm to members of the group.”
ISIS’ ruthless pursuit of religious and territorial cleansing clearly fits the definition of genocide.
The acts of ISIS show clear intent — violent and brutal executions targeting Christians and Yazidis who represent distinct “national, ethnic, racial and religious groups” in Iraq. The intent of ISIS goes beyond destruction; it aims to erase the past, present and future of both the Christians and Yazidis.
If the misery and hardships ISIS is inflicting on Syrian and Iraqi Christians is not considered genocide by the Obama administration, it will not only be committing an act of grave injustice but will further endanger the lives of those Christians who have chosen to remain in Syria and Iraq, amid the chaos of civil war and in the shadow of the constant threat of ISIS.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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