The pressure on Secretary of State John Kerry and the House of Representatives has been mounting for months. The issue? The unprecedented slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS.
The steady flow of persecution has been happening for years. ISIS has burned down churches and schools, sometimes with people boarded within the walls. They capture young women and make them sex slaves. There are countless stories shared about crucifixions, beheadings, and rape. Propaganda videos purportedly show ISIS militants burning Christian books. They kidnap religious leaders, often torturing them before killing them.
People are missing. Families are ripped apart. Entire communities are destroyed.
Secretary Kerry told Congress in February of 2016 that the Obama administration felt the evidence provided to them regarding the depth and breadth of the ongoing genocide was inconclusive. Several organizations and allied countries to America worked on providing more information to the administration in hopes of getting some designation from the US government about the genocide. But even more than a designation, people were hoping for some action.
On March 14th, Congress took an active step in the right direction when, historically, they voted 393-0 on House Continuing Resolution 75, recognizing the ongoing genocide of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities under ISIS.
Following in his fellow politicians’ footsteps, Secretary Kerry released a statement on March 17, stating that the United States had decided to designate the actions towards these people groups as genocide.
During a news conference last week, Kerry praised the efforts of the US and its allied countries in their fight against ISIS in major cities like Kobani, Tikrit and Ramadi. He also briefly addressed the ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the war in Syria.
He then addressed the issue of genocide head on:
“One element of genocide is the intent to destroy an ethnic or religious group, in whole or in part. We know that Daesh has given some of its victims a choice between abandoning their faith or being killed, and that for many is a choice between one kind of death and another. The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia.
… I hope that my statement today will assure the victims of Daesh’s atrocities that the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes that have been committed against them.”
Kerry also stated that while his information was not complete and that an independent investigation would continue, the time was right to move forward and also to urge other countries and groups to stand against the genocide happening.
While a designation of genocide does not mean that the US will take any action, many hope it will pressure the Obama administration to offer more resources and aid to those suffering and dying and to combat ISIS itself.
As the world reels from another ISIS attack in Brussels, one can only wonder how much more violence ISIS will rain down on cities and communities. How much longer do the deaths of men and women of faith have to horrify, disgust and break us before a response of significant magnitude is warranted?