Iraqi Priest Grateful That Kerry Recognizes ISIS Atrocities Against Christians as Genocide

By Published on March 18, 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry formally declared Thursday that attacks from the Islamic State terrorist group against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East constitute genocide.

Human rights and religious groups had long pushed for the State Department to declare ISIS’ atrocities a genocide.

Last Thursday, the Knights of Columbus, one of the largest Catholic organizations in the world, released a report identifying by name more than 1,100 Christians who have been killed by ISIS. The report also documents numerous attacks, including destruction of churches, rape, kidnapping, torture, and enslavement.

On Monday, The Daily Signal profiled the face of the Knights of Columbus’ campaign for action, the Rev. Douglas al-Bazi, a Catholic priest who was held hostage by terrorists in Iraq.

When al-Bazi was kidnapped by terrorists in November 2006, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, didn’t formally exist yet.

But as ISIS came to rise, and became a greater threat, al-Bazi in 2013 fled his working-class neighborhood of Baghdad for Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where he works as a priest at Mar Elia Refugee Camp.

Reacting to Thursday’s news that Kerry determined ISIS has committed genocide, al-Bazi sent The Daily Signal a video message he recorded from the refugee camp.

“We are and still are victims,” al-Bazi said in the video. “I want to thank all of the people who helped our people [by making] the declaration as a genocide. This is the first right step. Now we have to work together on how we can save the lives of our people here.”

Though the genocide designation is unlikely to have much impact on the United States-led military campaign against the Islamic State, it signals to religious minorities, including Shitte Muslims and Yazidis, that the western world recognizes the pain these groups have gone through, and is in solidarity with them as they seek to recover.

“In my judgment, Da’esh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” Kerry said at a news conference in Washington using the Arabic name for ISIS. “Da’esh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions.”

Kerry’s decision came in response to a March 17 deadline set by Congress for the State Department to determine whether ISIS is guilty of genocide against minorities in Iraq and Syria.

On Monday, the U.S. House passed a non-binding bill by a vote of 393-0 declaring ISIS’ actions against Christians and other minority groups, including the Yazidis and Kurds, “genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Following Kerry’s decision, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., complimented the secretary of state, but also encouraged the Obama administration to intensify its military effort against ISIS.

“Now that our government is recognizing this crisis, it needs to do more to stop it,” Ryan said in a statement. “I hope the president will seize this opportunity to present a very clear strategy to defeat this enemy. And to all those brave people who are being persecuted, I would simply like to say this: We will stand with you, we will pray for you, and we will work every day to put these words into action.”

Kerry’s determination that ISIS has committed genocide marks only the second time the U.S. has made that distinction during an ongoing conflict, according to the Associated Press.

In 2004, then Secretary of State Colin Powell said atrocities being committed in Sudan’s Darfur region qualified as genocide.


Copyright 2016 The Daily Signal

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