Genocide: an intangible word of the past to those of us in the West; a daily reality to religious minorities in the Middle East. It’s a word not lightly used because of the reality it depicts.
But, we’ve heard the news reports of mass killings, hangings, beheadings, crucifixions, and rapes of religious minorities spanning all across the Middle East - the latest of which details the burning of Christians alive inside locked caskets.
Is this genocide, however? Do the actions of ISIS – the Islamic State – against Christians in the region rise to the level of genocide?
First, what is “genocide” as defined by international law?
The Holocaust gave rise to the necessity to define what “genocide” is, and Article 2 of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) did just that, defining it as:
any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Also, a footnote within the definition above states:
It might be necessary to determine if all or only a part of the group at risk within a specific geographical location is being targeted. The aim of the Genocide Convention is to prevent the intentional destruction of entire human groups, and the part targeted must be significant enough (substantial) to have an impact on the group as a whole. The substantiality requirement both captures genocide’s defining character as a crime of massive proportions (numbers) and reflects the Convention’s concern with the impact the destruction of the targeted part will have on the overall survival of the group (emblematic).
Now, let’s examine a few numbers:
In Iraq and Syria, 1 to 1.8 million Christians have been slaughtered or displaced – 600,000 of whom have been displaced in Syria in the last four years alone. Iraq’s Christian population is nearing complete annihilation as the community’s numbers have plummeted from 1.4 million to a mere 270,000.
That’s a more than 80% drop.
Looking back at the legal definition, not only have Christians – a specific religious group – been targeted within a certain geographical area, the number of Christians murdered or displaced are well within the range of what any rational individual would define as “significant.”
Now, why is labeling the atrocities against Christians in the Middle East paramount?
Because by calling it genocide, the international community is obligated to act. America and the rest of the world community will be called into action to stop what they’ve promised would “never again” happen.
Well, genocide is happening. It’s no longer just a thing of the past. It is a reality of our present – a reality that we must take decisive action to put a stop to now.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said it correctly: “When hundreds of thousands of Christians – men, women and children – are killed, this isn’t war. This is genocide. And we Jews know what happens when the world is silent to genocide.”
As we aggressively urge Congress and the U.S. State Department to recognize the genocide of Christians, add your name to our petition (below and) at BeHeardProject.com.
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