The Knights of Columbus became involved in supporting Christians and other religious minorities in this Middle East because of their long-standing humanitarian activity and support for religious freedom at home and around the world. In Defense of Christians (IDC) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection and preservation of Christians in the Middle East. Last month the two organizations joined together to submit a report to Secretary of State John Kerry evidence that established that the situation confronting Christians and other religious minorities constitutes genocide.
Here are five facts you should know from the report:
1. Genocide is a crime under both federal and international law. Article 2 of the Geneva Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group:
(a) Killing its members; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. ISIS openly declares that it intends to destroy Christianity by killing Christians who will not convert to Islam and by enslaving Christian women.
2. Under federal law (22 U.S.C. §8213 the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, 18 U.S.C. §§1091, 1092, 1093) the President and the Secretary of State have a duty to “collect information regarding incidents that may constitute . . . genocide,” and then the President “shall consider what actions can be taken to ensure that . . . [those] who are responsible for . . . genocide . . . are brought to account for such crimes in an appropriately constituted tribunal.”
3. Shlomo, a nongovernmental organization of internally displaced persons, has been working to catalogue the crimes suffered by the Christian community in the Nineveh Plain since 2003. It has provided a list of 1,131 Christians that have been killed between 2003 and the rise of ISIS in the summer of 2014. Since then, it has recorded more than a hundred more.
4. In Syria, where the organization Aid to the Church in Need has reported on mass graves of Christians, Patriarch Younan estimates the number of Christians “targeted and killed by Islamic terrorist bands” at more than 1,000. Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart of Aleppo estimates the number of
Christians kidnapped and/or killed in his city as in the hundreds, with as many as “thousands” killed throughout Syria.
5. ISIS is estimated to have taken over 1,500 Yazidi and Christian girls as sex slaves. They are bought and sold on an open slave market, and are often raped in rapid succession by a number of fighters in a single night. One Christian man from Mosul committed suicide after ISIS fighters brutally raped his wife and daughter in front of him.80 Another woman was victimized so often that she resorted to defecating on herself to make herself less desirable, and had to be trained to use the bathroom again after she escaped. Outside Aleppo, Syria, two women were publicly raped when they refused to convert from Christianity before they were beheaded.