Obama won’t designate ISIL’s slaughter of Mideast Christians as genocide

Special to WorldTribune.com

Though the pope and the UN have designated Islamic State of Iraq and Levant’s (ISIL) slaughter of Mideast Christians as genocide, the Obama administration is not so sure.

“My understanding is the use of that word involves a very specific legal determination that has, at this point, not been reached,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Feb. 29.

Christian refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. /Photo by Pierre Bienaime
Christian refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. /Photo by Pierre Bienaime

“But we’ve been quite candid and direct, exactly, about how ISIL’s tactics are worthy of the kind of international, robust response that the international community is leading. And those tactics include a willingness to target religious minorities, including Christians.”

If it continues on its current path, ISIL may execute or drive out all of Iraq’s Christians in just five years, according to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

In 2003, the Christian population in Iraq was 1.5 million. Current estimates put it at 275,000.

“Last Christmas was the first time that bells did not ring out in the city of Mosul in 2,000 years,” Brown said. “I think that speaks to the reality that hundreds of thousands of Christian families are living on the edge of extinction.”

A Fox News report said the entire Christian population of the Middle East could “vanish within a decade unless the global community intervenes.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress last month that he is having an “additional evaluation” done to help determine whether the systematic murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East should be declared “genocide.”

“I will make a decision on it as soon as I have that additional evaluation, and we will proceed forward from there,” Kerry told a House Appropriations subcommittee on Feb. 24.

Kerry was responding to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska Republican, who is the sponsor of a resolution that would declare on behalf of Congress that the slaughter of Christians is in fact genocide.

Pope Francis, speaking in Bolivia last July, denounced the persecution of Christians: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

In January, the United Nations released a report on the “armed conflict” in Iraq, stating that “the violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering.” The report noted that ISIL “continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law. These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”