September 23, 2015
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy The Honorable Steve Scalise
Majority Leader Majority Whip
H-107, US Capitol H-329, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Steny Hoyer
Minority Leader Minority Whip
H-204, US Capitol 1705 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Majority Leader McCarthy, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Whip Scalise, and Minority Whip Hoyer:
We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners to urge you to facilitate the swift passage of H. Con. Res. 75, a bill decrying the genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Since the emergence of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria, Christians and other religious minorities including Yezidis, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka’e, Kurds, and Shi’a, have been targeted for extermination and forced to flee their homelands.
The atrocities perpetrated against these vulnerable groups shock the conscience of civilized humanity. They have been systematically murdered and subjected to grievous bodily harm and psychological harm, including sexual slavery and abuse inflicted in a deliberate and calculated manner.
ISIS is committing genocide against religious groups that do not conform to ISIS’s totalitarian definition of ‘true Islam’. As 51 scholars of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the world’s largest organization of experts on genocide, have said in a letter this month to Congress, “ISIS’s mass murders of Chaldean, Assyrian, Melkite Greek, and Coptic Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Sunni Kurds and other religious groups meet even the strictest definition of genocide.”
The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights report released in March states about the human rights situation in Iraq that, “It is reasonable to conclude that some of these incidents, considering the overall information, may constitute genocide.” The report also calls for the Security Council “to remain seized of and address, in the strongest terms, information that points to genocide.”
Article II of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
In its genocidal campaign to eradicate and subjugate those who do not conform to the group’s ideology, the Islamic State has committed all of these acts against Yezidis, Christians, Shia Muslims and other religious minorities in whole and in part through systematic, ongoing, and egregious attacks.
ISIS has broadcast their horrific acts of violence for the world to see through a calculated and organized social media strategy. In a graphic video entitled “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross” released by ISIS in February of this year, the world saw 21 innocent Coptic Christian men marched along the beach, forced to the ground, and beheaded. They were brutally murdered because they were “people of the cross.”
The United States government and the global community must universally acknowledge the genocide that is taking place against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. Without a swift and decisive response from the international community, the lives and ancient cultural heritage of these minorities could be eradicated from the Middle East completely. In the words of Pope Francis, this gruesome and ongoing reality must be denounced. “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide, and I stress the word genocide, is taking place, and it must end.”
It is our belief that officially declaring and subsequently halting this genocide and its spread is a matter of vital moral and strategic importance for the United States, the international community, and the overall state of religious freedom around the world.
We humbly urge you to facilitate the swift passage of H. Con. Res. 75 to decry the genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Thank you for your consideration,
President, The Mitchell Firm
Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable
IN DEFENSE OF CHRISTIANS (IDC)
GENOCIDE WATCH, INC.
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