Kerry says Islamic State is committing genocide against minorities

By Barb Fraze

Secretary of State John Kerry said that atrocities carried out by the Islamic
State group against Yezidis, Christians and other minorities were genocide, the
first U.S. declaration of genocide since Sudanese actions in Darfur in 2004.

Kerry said he was not judge and
jury, but the Islamic State had self-defined itself as genocidal because of its
actions against Yezidis, Christians, Shiite Muslims and other minorities.

A 66-member coalition is
“working intensively to stop the spread of Daesh,” Kerry said, using
the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. He said the world must “marginalize and
defeat violence extremists, once and for all,” so they were not replaced
by another extremist group with a different acronym.

“We must recognize and hold
the perpetrators accountable,” Kerry said in a March 17 statement that
included a litany of atrocities such as rape and murder. He said Christians
often were given the choice of converting to Islam or death, which was a choice
between two types of death.

Kerry said military action to
defeat Islamic State was important, but so were other actions. He said the
coalition against Islamic State was working to strangle the group’s finances
and to ensure that people who fled would someday be able to return.

On March 14, the
House of Representatives, in a bipartisan 393-0 vote, approved a nonbinding
resolution that condemns as genocide the atrocities being carried out by
Islamic State militants against Christians and other religious and ethnic
minorities in the areas it occupies in Iraq and Syria. They gave Kerry until
March 17 to decide whether to make a formal declaration of genocide.

The European Parliament passed a similar resolution in February.

Department spokesmen had said Kerry was studying volumes of information before
deciding on the genocide information. Last October, they hinted that a genocide
designation was coming for the Yezidi minority in the region, but not for
Christians. The comments led to a firestorm of protest from Christian groups
that resulted in the congressional action.

Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, asked U.S. Catholics to sign a pledge calling for an end to
the slaughter of Christians and members of other religious minority groups in
the Middle East.

“As a
people of faith, we must convince the U.S. Department of State to include
Christians in any formal declaration of genocide,” he said March 14, just
days before Kerry’s deadline.

In his
remarks, Kerry said the U.S. government did not have total access to everything
going on but was basing its decision on intelligence and military sources and
outside groups.

On March 10
in Washington, the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians issued a 278-page
report containing contains dozens of statements collected from Feb. 22 through
March 3 from witnesses and victims of atrocities carried out by Islamic State
forces. The incidents included torture, rapes, kidnappings, murder, forced
conversions, bombings and the destruction of religious property and monuments.

In Beirut, Syriac Catholic
Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan commended the “courageous and clear resolution.”
He said adopting the resolution would “help the (world’s) first Christian
communities survive in their homeland of the Middle East.” He made the
remarks before leaving March 17 to visit Homs, Syria, his fourth visit since
the liberation of the city.

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