Iraq (MNN) — The Obama administration is moving to designate the Islamic State’s attacks on the Yazidi and other religious minorities in Iraq an act of “genocide”. It is a rare move intended to ratchet up international pressure against the terror organization.
An announcement is expected in the next couple of weeks by Secretary of State John Kerry, but is it enough? There are a couple of schools of thought.
First, genocide may not be the most accurate word to describe what is happening to Christians in Iraq and Syria.
Genocide is more about ethnicity (genus) than religion. Also, according to the Voice of the Martyrs USA, Christians are NOT all being killed by ISIS. Many are being forced to flee or convert or pay the jizya tax. Since genocide is about extermination, being forced out of their homes isn’t the same thing.
‘Genocide’ is not a term used lightly in the international community. Other situations that finally earned the term ‘genocide’ included the mass killings in Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and, more recently, the Darfur crisis in Sudan. The United Nations defines it as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group,” including killing and forcibly transferring children from the group.
The 1948 U.N. convention on genocide requires signatories to work to prevent genocide and punish perpetrators when it does occur. In other words, it would imply that the United States — as a UN member — would be involved in helping to restore property and lands taken from the minority groups, as well as offer aid, asylum, and other protections to genocide victims.
The second school of thought: the Islamic State has been so thorough with its purge of Christians, that some aid groups fear Christianity could be extinct in the Middle East within a generation or even sooner.
A new study from aid group Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) covered the oppression of Christians for their faith between the years 2013 and 2015, and found such persecution has been “catastrophic for many Christians in the regions where persecution is worst,” such as Middle East, Africa and Asia.
As noted by Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and a USCIRF commissioner from 1999 to 2012, “to propose that Christians have been simply driven off their land but not suffered similar fates is deeply misinformed…. [Christians] are also being deliberately targeted for extinction through equally brutal measures.”
Much of this discussion has been met with silence from the American Church. Open Doors USA’s Emily Fuentes says, “I think we get ‘compassion fatigue’, or, maybe we just get used to it in the news. It’s hard to remember that this is STILL going on, and that people have been displaced from their homes for more than a year and a half, and many have lost their family members in a violent way.”
The topic of ‘refugees’ is front and center now, with the heightened awareness and debate over admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. Fuentes urges you to remember that these nameless masses are people who have survived unbelievable trauma. “It’s been absolutely horrific for religious minorities and minority groups in general in both Iraq and Syria, who have been targeted specifically by the Islamic State.”
Only a smattering will actually succeed in resettling in North America. For the hundreds of thousands still in the Middle East and North Africa, she explains, ”We’re there working with these partner organizations to provide refugee care such as tents and trailers and all of those things to house people, as well as food. We’re providing trauma counseling.”
The need continues to grow.
“The exodus has stopped,” shares an Open Doors worker in Iraq. “There are no more Christians in Mosul. We now need to pray that they might return one day.” Still, ISIS continues to attack Christians in both Iraq and Syria. Thousands more have been forced to flee for their lives.
Fuentes says Open Doors needs your help to support these believers who’ve been so affected by the violence there. Yes, they need physical supplies. But, this is really a spiritual war, and that calls for a spiritual response. “What I’ve heard time and time again [from persecuted Christians], is to know that they’ve not been forgotten about. They ask for our prayers, [and] they ask that we share their stories; that the stories don’t just stay with us, but that we share them with all we know.”
(Open Doors also has a petition to Take A Stand Against ISIS. Click here if you want to sign it.)