The Obama Administration has officially declared that ISIS is committing genocide against minorities, including Christians, in the Middle East.
Numerous Christian advocacy groups in the United States hailed the decision, including the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, which was active in the lobbying effort to raise awareness and convince the Administration to use the word “genocide” when discussing the continuing violence in the Middle East.
“My purpose here today is to assert in my judgment, (ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims,” he said, during a news conference at the State Department.
Back in November, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago issued an official statement at its annual assembly, calling on the Obama Administration to call the actions in the Middle East a genocide. The resolution received unanimous support from all of the delegates and was mailed to President Obama.
A systematic media campaign was subsequently launched, with editorials appearing in all major Midwest newspapers and the Wall Street Journal, penned by Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the chancellor of the Metropolis.
Kerry said that in 2014, ISIS trapped Yazidis, killed them, enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls, “selling them at auction, raping them at will and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations,” executed Christians “solely for their faith” and also “forced Christian women and girls into slavery.”
The declaration is a rare one— this is the first time that the United States has declared a genocide since Darfur in 2004. The U.S. has a record of trying to avoid the term “genocide,” which carries with it political, moral and some legal obligations.
The genocide designation does not legally obligate or bind the U.S. to take any particular action, but it could put pressure on the Obama administration to take more aggressive military action against ISIS. It could also give weight to calls by other lawmakers and humanitarian groups pushing the Obama administration to welcome more refugees into the United States.
The Obama administration has struggled for months over the genocide determination, according to Politico, with some officials pushing for as broad a declaration as possible, while others insisted the process had to be a strictly legal one. State Department lawyers went through reams of evidence and sifted through an array of relevant laws and treaties. Technically, Kerry has the final say on the issue.
Bishop Demetrios, known for his advocacy of numerous social justice initiatives, including the repealing of the death penalty in the state of Illinois, was praised by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo as a leading voice in the efforts in a letter she sent the Metropolis after she read the Wall Street Journal editorial.!
“We applaud the Obama Administration for listening to the voices of American Christians– and Greek Orthodox Christians in particular, who were the leading advocates on this matter,” the Bishop said in an interview to The Pappas Post.
He added that “Now that we have the nation’s attention, we must shift our focus on the global community and the United Nations, in particular, which must come together to protect these ancient people from extinction.”