Genocide: What’s in a name?

By March 15, 2016
(Image courtesy Wikipedia)

(Image courtesy Wikipedia)

USA (MNN) — H. Con. Res. 75 names and decries ISIS violence against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East as genocide.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) put the issue before the congressional marketplace of ideas last September and again Monday. With over 200 bipartisan cosponsors, and a unanimous vote, it’s clear that legislators are growing impatient for the Obama Administration to make a decision on the issue: Is it or is it not Genocide?

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, explains, “People need to understand that it’s beyond a legal definition. It’s much more of a political designation, which is why the government is able to hesitate and to avoid trying to call it a genocide, because they feel that the standard will be raised, but it’s an indefinite standard.”

In a statement Fortenberry says, “When ISIS systematically targets Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities for extermination, this is not only a grave injustice: it is a threat to civilization itself. We must call the violence by its proper name: genocide.

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

“A genocide designation will raise international consciousness and compel the international community of responsible nations to act, setting the preconditions for the reintegration of ancient ethnic groups and faith traditions into their ancestral homelands.”

HR75 underscores a March 17 deadline facing Secretary of State John Kerry to make an official determination. But due to the legal review underway, a decision may not be ready by Thursday.

Meanwhile, governments and individual citizens agree that genocide is evil. They also agree that it should be halted when it begins to unfold or, better yet, prevented before it happens. The last time preventative action occurred was 71 years ago. Why has the U.S. waited so long to do so again? Curry says it boils down to this:  “Because, for political expediency, they prefer not to.”

Genocide implies definitions of sovereignty. A genocide declaration bears no real teeth. Even if a designation is made, there are no specifically-defined events or actions that prevent it or punish it–in essence, no real consequences against a regime found guilty of crimes against humanity, genocide, or other equally weighty designations.

Why bother? Curry clarifies, “I’m not saying that designating genocide doesn’t do anything, but what I’m saying is it does not force a particular remedy. It is important to recognize what has happened.”

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons/Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil)

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons/Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil)

It puts an extra burden of responsibility on those countries that have acknowledged, ‘This is a genocide,’ says Curry, even as he wonders now that they are confronted with evidence, how will they respond to it? “As long as they can say, ‘Well, it doesn’t rise to a certain level, therefore, we’re not called upon to do anything,’ people can skate by. I think that’s exactly what’s happened. There’s been a real lack of focus on what has happened to Christians in the Middle East from a governmental point of view.”

However, a rapidly-expanding international coalition is calling the United States to account. ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East. The European Parliament, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Pope Francis, and presidential candidates in both parties are decrying what has happened.

(Photo courtesy Open Doors via Facebook)

(Photo courtesy Open Doors via Facebook)

Christians were not included in the genocide designation, even though they were being killed in great numbers alongside the Yazidi. Curry says, “They correctly have identified what’s happened to the Yazidis as a genocide because our administration’s rationale has been, ‘It’s possible to eliminate the Yazidis. It’s a small number of people.’”  Since it isn’t possible to wipe out ALL the Christians, he says, they were excluded from the genocide determination.

Their wholesale slaughter does not appear to meet the high bar set out in the genocide treaty, that the perpetrators have the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part,” an entire “national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” Numerous videos found online, along with statements from their recruitment propaganda, have stated this is their purpose: to eradicate the infidel and set into motion the end of the world. “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify–by Allah’s permission–until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” (Found in every issue of Dabiq, a jihadist magazine.)

What difference does any of this make? This is more than a political calculation. This is a struggle raging through the heavens. Curry says, “People are coming to faith through this because it’s breaking their orthodoxy. If you are a ritualistic person, if you’re a religious person, and you go through this sort of trauma, you realize you need a personal relationship with the Lord, and the power of the story of Jesus is a personal faith.”

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

Open Doors quoted one local Christian who explained that further in an earlier story: “They are doubting what their political and religious leaders are teaching them. They are wondering: ‘Why is what the imam preaches–a message of peace and mercy–so different from what we see Islam do in practice? Hate and violence are growing. Why should we have to align ourselves with one of the violent parties in this conflict?’ A growing number of Muslims are openly questioning their beliefs.”

One of the ways followers of Christ stand out is when they are helping others. In many places where violence breaks out, Christians tend to provide relief to the victims. When violence and hatred fuel these extremists, Christians are reaching out to Muslims through the love of Christ. The Muslims are wondering: “Why should I still hate Christians?”

The Christians are responding: “What if His true nature is love and peace? How can you live your life in the way God has intended it for you?”

You can show that Christians around the world have not forgotten about them and have not grown weary of doing good. You can pray, give, share their stories, or be the hands and feet of Christ to them.  You CAN make a difference in a way that transcends the definitions of the day.


One Comment

  • Amie Cotton says:

    Thank you for sharing this important story. At Christian Aid Mission, we too are seeing the ministries we assist in the Middle East struggle with the ongoing war in Syria and Iraq. We need to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer and deed!

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