by Todd Beamon
Iraqi Christians, who fled Mosul after ISIS militants took control of the area, attend a weekly prayer at the Ashti camp in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian leaders from the Middle East and other human rights leaders released a report Thursday saying that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians in the region and called on the United States to join with other nations to fight it.
“ISIS is committing genocide — the “crime of crimes” — against Christians and other religious groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya,” according to the report, which was released at the National Press Club in Washington. “It is time for the United States to join the rest of the world by naming it and by taking action against it as required by law.”
The 278-page document, presented to Secretary of State John Kerry, seeks to pressure on the Obama administration into officially labeling the ISIS atrocities as genocide, Fox News reports.
The State Department and White House have so far declined to do so, but have until next Thursday to make a decision. The deadline was imposed by Congress.
Agency officials did not return a request for comment from Fox on the report, though the Obama administration has said it would address the violence against Christians and other groups in the region — regardless of how it was described.
Douglas Bazi, who was once held by ISIS and is now a priest at a refugee camp in Erbil in Iraq, told of how the terrorists destroyed his teeth with a hammer and forced him to watch his church burn.
“There is not ‘life’ in Iraq,” Bazi said, Fox reports.
He noted that his church has been targeted so often that it was called the “church of the martyrs, or the church of the blood.
“We are forgotten, and we are alone,” he told the Press Club audience.
Dankha Joola, who also lives in Erbil, said that fewer than 300,000 Christians now live in Iraq, Fox reports.
That compared with about 2 million before the 2003 invasion by the United States. Many have been forced to flee — first by al-Qaida and now ISIS, he said.
Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, told Fox that “the evidence contained in this report as well as the evidence relied upon by the European Parliament fully support — I would suggest compel — the conclusion that reasonable grounds exist to believe the crime of genocide has been committed.”
The report, according to Fox, includes:
- A list of 1,131 Iraqi Christians killed between 2003 and June 9, 2014, including where they were killed and when.
- Twenty-four pages of witness statements collected between February and March of this year.
- Details on nearly 200 documented attacks. These include destruction of property, sexual assaults, enslavement, torture, imprisonment and killing. The assaults occurred in in Iraq, Syria and North Africa.
- Specifics on attacks on 125 churches in Iraq from 2003 to 2014.
- A legal brief arguing that the crimes committed rise to the level of the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, as well as Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Last month, the European Parliament declared that ISIS has been committing genocide in the Mideast against Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities, according to Fox.
“While we believe this to be the most comprehensive report on this subject to date, covering incidents in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, we continue to receive new reports and new evidence,” Anderson said.
However, he cautioned: “It may only be the tip of the iceberg.”