Christian leaders are urging the Obama administration to classify the religious-based killings by the Islamic State (ISIS) as "genocide," Politico reports.
Members of ISIS follow an extreme version of Sunni Islam and have killed Christians, Yazidis, Shi'as, Turkmen and Shabaks as they have set up their caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.
The "genocide" designation could help make it possible for victims of persecution to gain refugee status and force the United States to act on their behalf.
The State Department already is debating whether to assign the "genocide" label to Yazidis, who practice a religion that mixes Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That decision is expected soon.
About 30 Christian and other leaders wrote Secretary of State John Kerry last week to request a meeting on the issued. The letter was signed by Washington, D.C. Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
"We have extensive files supporting a finding that ISIS’ treatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets this definition (of genocide)," the letter from the Christian leaders reads.
"They include evidence of ISIS assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture; kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; its sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; its practices of forcible conversions to Islam; its destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and its theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike."
The effort also has support in Congress where more than 150 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have introduced a resolution calling ISIS attacks on Christians and other groups genocide.
"Genocide" is a more significant term than even "ethnic cleansing" and "crimes against humanity," Politico notes, because international treaties require a response when the term is used.
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