Stop Genocide: it is time to go beyond wordsApril 27, 2016
House Resolution 1150, the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015, to amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to improve the ability of the United States to advance religious freedom globally, passed the House Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, April 26. That moves us another step along the path toward action but every day, Christians and other religious minorities continue to die at the hands of the Islamic State. We have a moral obligation to act as those who face religious persecution cannot speak nor act for themselves.
#ISIS = genocide
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration finally recognized the fact that ISIS is committing genocide throughout the world through crucifixion, beheading, immolation, torture, sexual enslavement, mass rape, forced evictions, and additional atrocities. It is now clear to everyone that Islamic State jihadists intentionally target Christians and other religious minorities. But securing the genocide declaration was just a first step. Substantive, meaningful action must now follow.
We are all witnesses to these atrocities and we cannot deny what we know nor can we deny that we are in a position to do something to stop it.
ISIS intends to kill and destroy all people whose faith is not their narrow brand of Sunni Islam. Soon the cradle of Christianity will be devoid of Christians, devoid of the Christian witness, devoid of any vestige of Christian heritage as ISIS not only kills or drives out Christians, it destroys ancient holy sites and manuscripts. The goal is not only to exterminate the people but to rewrite the history of the region as if Christianity never existed.
We are fooling ourselves if we think ISIS is satisfied with terrorizing those currently under their control in Iraq and Syria. The attacks in Paris, Brussels and elsewhere make it clear ISIS has global ambitions.
Through the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, we have a contractual commitment to stop the genocide and protect those targeted for extermination.
Our obligations are diplomatic, legal, humanitarian and military in scope. Having ratified the Genocide Convention and having officially recognized the actions of ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East as genocide, it’s time to honor our word.
- Article I of the Genocide Convention establishes our duty, as a contracting state, to “prevent and to punish” genocide.
Actions to take to prevent genocide by protecting targeted people groups:
Call upon the President, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. delegation to the U.N. to use the power of the pen and the phone to demand that the U.N. implement the Genocide Convention. The Secretary of State has formally designated what is happening to Christians in the Middle East as genocide. It is time to add action to those words.
Contact your members of Congress and communicate with relevant congressional committees about your concerns. Ask them to act in support of HR1150 and apply pressure to the Executive Branch in advocacy at the U.N.
One tangible act would be the establishment of “safe zones” for victims of genocide within the affected regions. This both addresses the immediate concern for safety as well as fostering the future hope of restoration in the region.
For this to happen it is essential for the U.N. to formally call ISIS’ ongoing atrocities what they are: genocide. The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Pope Francis and his Representative at the U.N. in Geneva, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament have each and all taken this action.
Time is of the essence: In June 2016, the U.N. Human Rights Council will hold its 32nd session, where the High Commissioner will have an opportunity to address the Council and request that action be taken to stop the genocide in Iraq and Syria and protect the victims.
Actions to take to punish genocide by stopping ISIS:
International law requires that when a State “is manifestly failing to protect its populations the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations.” There is no question that the nations of Syria and Iraq are unable to protect Christians and other persecuted religious minorities from ISIS. That fact triggers our duty to act to both protect those under threat of genocide and punish those responsible for it.
The U.N. Security Council has many options available to stop ISIS and protect people groups specifically targeted for genocide. All options should be vigorously pursued as time is of the essence.
And although America is loathe to enter another round of war in the Middle East, we need to facilitate the creation of an effective international coalition to defeat ISIS militarily. This might include reevaluating the current strategy, expanding military efforts, or changing the focus of the effort. One thing is certain: what we’re doing now is not sufficiently effective to stop the genocide nor protect those targeted by ISIS.
Who cares and how much?
Do you care what’s happening to Christians and other people groups targeted by ISIS? Would you care more if it were happening here? To call the actions of ISIS genocide is mere lip service unless we put our money and our influence where our mouth is.
Now is the time to put real acts of service behind our words. We must speak up in an effort to turn the tide of international apathy and we must take tangible action to spur the United States government and the international community to implement the Genocide Convention – protecting those threatened by genocide and prosecuting those responsible for it.
Accounts to follow on Twitter to keep up on this: