WASHINGTON—The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the killing of minority Christians and Yazidis by the self-described Islamic State as “genocide.” And at least one Baptist human rights advocate hopes the United States will follow suit.
“This is a courageous stance, and I hope it will provide an additional catalyst for President Obama and his administration to join a growing chorus of political leaders, genocide scholars, human rights experts and numerous Iraqi and Syrian Christians and Yezidis who recognize that the most accurate descriptor for the atrocities unfolding at the initiative of the Islamic State is genocide,” said Elijah Brown, executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.
A historic first
The resolution marked the first time the European Parliament has recognized an ongoing conflict as genocide, said Brown, a former professor at East Texas Baptist University.
The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a human rights and religious liberty organization headed by Randel Everett, former executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, has led a campaign to persuade national and international officials to apply the term “genocide” to ISIS’ oppression of religious minorities.
The European Parliament adopted the Resolution on Systematic Mass Murder by ISIS, which urges members of the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. The resolution calls for an investigation of “violations committed in Iraq and Syria by the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh’ against Christians, Yazidis and religious and ethnic minorities.”
It also calls for the European Union to establish a permanent representative for freedom of religion and belief.
The European Parliament adopted the resolution a few days after a nearly unanimous vote at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe similarly condemned ISIS atrocities as genocide.
Response to ‘clear and compelling evidence’
Sophia Kuby, director of European advocacy for the Alliance Defending Freedom International, applauded the European Union for responding to “clear and compelling evidence that Christians and other minorities in the Middle East are victims of intentional destruction and genocide.”
“It is high time that the EU responded to the undeniable evidence of this genocide, which includes assassinations of church leaders, torture, mass murders, kidnapping, sexual enslavement, systematic rape of Christian and Yazidi girls and women, and the destruction of churches, monasteries and cemeteries.”
More than halfway into 90-day countdown
The Omnibus Bill the U.S. Congress passed Dec. 18 included a provision directing the secretary of state to report within 90 days to appropriate congressional committees “an evaluation of the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists and the Muslim Rohingya people in Burma by violent Buddhist extremists, including whether each situation constitutes mass atrocities or genocide.”
“More than half of the 90-day allotted period has now passed,” Brown noted. “The Christian and Yezidi communities in Iraq are living at the edge of extinction and face the very real possibility that their thousands of years of existence in this part of the Middle East will be virtually erased.”
Brown pointed to the destruction in January of St. Elijah’s Monastery, a 1,400-year-old Christian community in Iraq, as confirmation of ongoing attempts to eliminate religious minorities in Iraq.
“For a variety of reasons, the White House has been reticent to utilize the designation ‘genocide,’ especially as it relates to the Christian community,” he said. “The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is continuing to lead endeavors to address this injustice.
“The next 40 days are critical. We urge all Christians and people of good will to fervently pray, raise awareness among their circle of influence, and to let the White House know of their concern and hope that a designation of genocide will be made.
“The next 40-day window is a crucial moment and a tremendous opportunity for President Obama and Secretary Kerry to once again extend American leadership on behalf of international religious freedom and stand alongside the Christian and Yezidi communities who are experiencing the most brutal reality imaginable—genocide.”