Press release from The Iona Institute
‘Ireland should recognise persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by ISIS as a form of genocide’ says leading campaigner
April 7, 2016 – The Irish Government should formally recognise as genocide the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS, a leading campaigner on behalf of the rights of persecuted Christians has said.
John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) UK, made the call ahead of a talk he is giving on the topic at 8pm tonight in the Alexander hotel, Dublin. (See note 2 below).
John has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Syria, visiting Christians and others in Homs, Damascus and rural districts plagued by violence, persecution and extreme poverty. In his work with ACN, he has visited Iraq as well as other parts of the Middle East, Pakistan, China, Sudan, Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
Ahead of his talk tonight he commented: “On trips to Syria and Iraq I have seen with my own eyes the churches that have been repeatedly desecrated by Islamic State, I have met the people driven from their homes and I have also spoken to those who have been kidnapped, their lives threatened. The evidence makes plain the intent of the persecutors to flush out individual sections of society; that is why the Irish government should join with others in recognising the actions in question as genocide according to the definition given under the UN Convention on Genocide. Nor is this genocide only against Christians; it recognises Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as victims too.”
The US House of Representatives recently voted by 373 votes to nil to recognise as genocide what is happening to religious minorities at the hands of ISIS.
The European Parliament voted in favour of a similar resolution late last year.
The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines “genocide” as killing and certain acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
Extensive and irrefutable evidence supports a finding that the so-called Islamic State’s mistreatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets this definition.
This evidence includes:
- assassinations of Church leaders
- mass murders and deportations
- kidnapping for ransom
- sexual enslavement and systematic rape of girls and women
- forcible conversions to Islam
- destruction of Christian churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and artifacts
ISIS’s own public statements take ‘credit’ for the murder of Christians precisely because they are Christian and express its intent to wholly eradicate Christian and other minority communities from its ‘Islamic State.’
Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill noted in their historic joint statement that “whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.”
In addition to the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, the US State Department, Pope Francis, groups such as Genocide Watch, along with the Christian leaders of Iraq and Syria themselves, and many others, have called ISIS’s actions against Christians in Iraq and Syria genocide.
A recent petition signed by 60 members of the British Houses of Parliament noted why it is important to recognise what is happening as genocide.
It said: “This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the U.N. that genocide is being perpetrated. First, it would send a very clear message to those organising and undertaking this slaughter that at some point in the future they will be held accountable by the international community for their actions; they will be caught, tried and punished. Second, it would encourage the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention to face up to their duty to take the necessary action to ‘prevent and punish’ the perpetrators of these evil acts.”