Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Weak words are not enough.” So began the Congressional Testimony of Genocide expert, Dr. Gregory Stanton. Along with Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, Bishop Frank Kalabat of the Chaldean Church, and others, he came to express grave concern for religious minorities, among them Yezidis, Christians and others, at the hands of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).
Pope Francis has also expressed clearly: “Today, we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end” (Speech in Bolivia, July 9, 2015).
Dr. Stanton pointed out that what is happening now is not “ethnic cleansing,” nor is it just “crimes against humanity.” These words were used in our most recent past, and were not strong enough to stop the genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo or Darfour. In fact, genocide is a crime on a massive scale compared to other crimes against humanity and implies an intention to completely exterminate the chosen group.
With impunity, ISIS has swept through Syria and Iraq and taken defenseless Christian villages and those of other minorities. In fact, they have taken aim at minorities, as well as their own co-religionists, in fact, anyone who thinks differently from them. While we understand that the crimes of ISIS and other extremists represent a crisis within the larger political crisis, Dr. Stanton and others came to urge the United States Congress to formally declare the systematic destruction of these ancient communities, and those who stand with them, genocide.
Article II of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide defines 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:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(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.
Since the beginning of their swift and destructive rise, ISIS has committed all of these, in whole and in part, through a calculated and deliberate system of atrocity. Furthermore, their intent can be clearly seen as outlined in their propaganda, which calls for the eradication or subjugation of those who do not conform to their ideology.
Unlike previous such instances in modern history, there has been no attempt by ISIS to conceal their actions. On the contrary, the group shamelessly broadcasts decapitations, crucifixions, forced drownings, a theological rationalization for rape, and other horrors, with the sole purpose of spreading its message of destruction and recruiting more agents to the ranks of its hellish crimes.
Two months ago, H. Con. Res. 75 was introduced to the United States Congress by Representatives Fortenberry (R-NE) and Eshoo (D-CA) of the Congressional Caucus for Religious Minorities in the Middle East to officially declare these crimes genocide. Doing so would better enable the world community to halt the spread of these crimes. This is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a matter of vital moral importance for the United States, the international community, and for the overall protection and advancement of religious freedom around the world. Perhaps equally important, such a declaration will give a strong voice to the long-suffering victims, whose voices are oftentimes not heard at all. As Pope Francis said it clearly: “We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for 2000 years” (Speech in Turkey, November 30, 2014).
What Can We Do?
1: Request President Obama and all government officials to publicly acknowledge and denounce the actions of ISIS as
genocide. Support the effort of In Defense of Christians, a non-partisan and ecumenical non-profit, created to advocate for political action.
2: Help organize fundraisers or make donations to Caritas Lebanon, Catholic Relief Services and/or other Catholic humanitarian efforts.
3: Pray, advocate for, and invite fellow Christians, and all other people of good will, to pray for an end to the crimes and hatred of ISIS and other such groups.
“Weak words are not enough.” What is needed is correct political, humanitarian and spiritual action. May God give us the grace this new year to be his voice, to be the voice of the oppressed, and to cry out for love and mercy in our tired and troubled world. ❒
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn
+Elias Abdallah Zaidan
Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles