February 13, 2016

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Fight ISIS Genocide of Christians, Yazidis, Others

On February 4, the European Parliament unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the Islamic State’s (ISIS or Da’ish) “systematic mass-murder” of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities as genocide. The resolution, the first by that body to ever recognize an ongoing conflict as genocide, followed up an earlier resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that also overwhelmingly passed. Now the British Parliament’s House of Lords has taken up the issue. The United States government remains glaringly absent from those world powers speaking out against ISIS’ genocidal slaughter and destruction in the Middle East. But you can help change that right now

There are 3 things you can do right now to try to make sure that the United States is on the right side of history on identifying and acting against the genocide of religious minorities from Iraq and Syria by ISIS. If you observe Lent, you may wish to consider taking these actions as part of your Lenten observance. 

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, Bishop Angaelos of the UK Coptic Church, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, Bishop Angaelos of the UK Coptic Church, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (Photo credit: Middle East Minorities Caucus web page)

All three of the actions that you can take are connected to a resolution that was introduced last fall by U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and  U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)

“Expressing the sense of Congress that those who commit or support atrocities against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities, including Yezidis, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka’e, and Kurds, and who target them specifically for ethnic or religious reasons, are committing, and are hereby declared to be committing, “war crimes”, “crimes against humanity”, and “genocide.”

The situation is urgent because reports have been leaked for months now that the State Department is preparing to issue a genocide determination against ISIS, but to only include the Yazidis, and not the Christians or other beleaguered religious minorities. A very helpful information sheet on genocide in Iraq is available from the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.

Pressure is mounting even more because the issue has been made more complicated and time-sensitive by the Omnibus bill that was signed by President Obama on December 18, 2015. That bill contained a provision requiring Secretary Kerry to provide an evaluation to Congress of “the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East” and determine whether such attacks constitute genocide. That report is required within 90 days from the bill’s passage, in other words, March 17, 2016.

#1. Support the Sponsors

a. Thank: It doesn’t matter if you are a constituent of Congresswoman Eshoo or Congressman Fortenberry or not– let them know that you appreciate what they are doing for persecuted Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities from Iraq and Syria. Even though snail mail is slow to Capitol Hill, a personal note would be ideal. A line in the address indicating RE: Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus will help your note get delivered to the right staff person. Eshoo and Fortenberry are the co-chairs of that caucus. Contact info for Eshoo indicates that correspondence via U.S.P.S. should be sent to her Palo Alto office. Fortenberry’s contact page also gives various options for sending mail. Alternately, you can send an email or a faxed photocopy of a handwritten note (yes, they actually still use fax machines on the Hill!).

b. Pray: In addition to thanking these members, you can support them by praying for them and for the success of their efforts. It is so important to have legislators in Congress who really care about the fate of persecuted Christians and others and are willing to be ones out front in pushing policy.

#2. Find YOUR member

Go to the website of the resolution H.Con.Res.75 itself and find the list of co-sponsors.

The good news is that at this writing 196 members of the U.S. House of Representatives from both sides of the aisle are urging President Obama’s government to declare events in Syria and Iraq as a genocide! But more are needed. 218 co-sponsors are needed as a majority to ensure passage of the resolution in the House. (After that, we need to move on to the Senate and get a resolution passed there, as well!)

See if your own member of Congress is among the sponsors. If so, contact him or her and thank them for being a co-sponsor of this important resolution. Urge them to also speak out publicly and write op eds to call more attention to the issue. Also, urge them to encourage more of their fellow members to sign on as co-sponsors.

The other original co-sponsors of the resolution are U.S. Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), and Juan Vargas (D-CA). If one of these is your Congressman, they deserve special attention and thanks!

If your member of Congress is NOT a co-sponsor, you know what to do! Call their office and/or email and urge them to become a sponsor immediately! If you read the resolution, you will find all of the talking points that you need to demonstrate why this resolution is needed. Ask your friends, family, fellow church members, etc. to also put pressure on your Congressperson.

3. Contact the Administration

Send your message to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, urging them to find a determination of genocide perpetrated by ISIS against Christians, Yazidis, and all the endangered and persecuted religious minorities. You can refer to H.Con.Res.75 and  you can refer to what other nations have done — particularly since the U.S. resolution was actually the model for the efforts of the Europeans.

The Council of Europe’s resolution “Foreign Fighters in Iraq and Syria,” that passed on January 27, 2016, states, that “the terrorist entity. . . Da’ish” has “perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law.” It adds “States should act on the presumption that Da’ish commits genocide and should be aware that this entails action under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

The European Parliament’s resolution went a step further, naming by name ISIS’ victims of genocide. It identifies “Christian (Chaldean/Syriac/Assyrian, Melkite and Armenian), Yazidi, Turkmens, Shabak, Kaka‟i, Sabae-Mandean, Kurdish and Shi‟a communities, as well as many Arabs and Sunni Muslims.”

And the UK Parliamentary debate, February 3, revealed that 75 members of the House of Lords had identified the plight of Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities as genocide, and  had written to the Prime Minister just before Christmas “urging her Majesty’s Government to declare events in Syria and Iraq as a genocide.” One member. David Alton, Lord Alton of Liverpool has also written for the UK publication Catholic Herald about the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians.

Let’s work to ensure that our own government joins these efforts to identify and support the victims of ISIS’ genocide.

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