The Christian Post obtained an early copy of a letter sent to President Barack Obama from more than 100 organizations and individuals, including Hudson Institute, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Family Research Council, as well as Assyrian and Iraqi groups, urging his administration to declare Islamic State atrocities as genocide against all minorities, including Christians, and not just Yazidis.
"There is a growing chorus of political and faith leaders, genocide scholars, human rights experts and numerous Iraqi and Syrian, Christian and Yazidi firsthand testimonies recognizing that the most accurate description for the atrocities unfolding at the initiative of the Islamic State is genocide," reads the letter sent Wednesday by International Religious Freedom Roundtable, an informal and diverse group of non-governmental organizations and individuals which meets in Washington D.C.
The letter comes a week after Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill stated in their historic joint statement that "whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated."
Earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a resolution declaring that the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, "is committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis … (and) other religious and ethnic minorities."
The letter, signed by numerous groups and individuals, including Nina Shea and Paul Marshall from Hudson Institute, Christian author and spokesperson for Middle Eastern Christians Johnnie Moore, Russell Moore from the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Tony Perkins from Family Research Council, Thomas Farr from Georgetown University's Religious Freedom Project, and Douglas Napier from ADF International among others.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also used the word "genocide" to describe the Islamic States actions against Christians and other religious groups.
She said on Dec. 29, 2015: "I am now sure we have enough evidence, what is happening is genocide deliberately aimed at destroying lives and wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities."
The signatories included representatives from Assyrian Patriotic Party in Iraq, Alliance of Iraqi Minorities, Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, Yazidi Youth Union General Consul, Coptic Solidarity, Dwekh Nawsha Assyrian Army and many more.
Without a formal declaration, the letter says, "the U.S. Government has abdicated its duty and vow to confront the most heinous of human rights violations, namely genocide," the letter states, reminding Obama that "between now and March 16, 2016, your Administration has a tremendous opportunity to extend American leadership at a crucial time on behalf of the ancient religious and ethnic minority communities who are experiencing the most brutal reality imaginable – genocide."
The letter noted that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq — Human Rights Office have also stated clearly that "ISIL continue to target members of different ethnic and religious communities … (These) acts appear to form part of a systematic and widespread policy that aims to suppress, permanently expel, or destroy many of these communities within ISIL areas of control."
Writing for National Review, Hudson Institute's Shea wrote that the State Department in October leaked word that an official genocide designation would be forthcoming but made clear that State would recognize only a Yazidi genocide and not one against Christians.
"Unnamed administration officials are proffering various arguments to justify omitting the Christians. All are flimsy, as seen below, and point to political motives," she wrote, citing an example of how a tragic, violent incident concerning a Christian woman was not included in a recent report by the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
"After entering a Nineveh town in August 2014, ISIS militants confronted a Christian woman and demanded that she convert to Islam," Shea narrated. "When she refused, as the woman, now a refugee in Kurdistan, reported to the Hammurabi Human-Rights Organization in Iraq, they grabbed her infant and dashed him to the ground, killing him, and took away her husband."
The report "purports to cover all minorities and that State Department officials say the administration is relying on to make its determination that only the Yazidis face genocide," Shea points out. "Nor are any others from the volumes of Christian cases documented by Hammurabi, Aid to the Church in Need, the Assyrian International News Agency, the Vatican's Agenzia Fides, and other Christian sources."
The letter tells President Obama that "designating the crimes committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as genocide against Christians — Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, Copts, etc. — Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Turkmen (Shia), Shabak and other religious minority communities would build upon your 2015 National Security Strategy which acknowledges, 'We have a strong interest in leading an international response to genocide and mass atrocities when they arise, recognizing options are more extensive and less costly when we act preventively before situations reach crisis proportions.'"
Such a designation would also support Obama's Dec. 23, 2015, "Statement on Persecuted Christians at Christmas" where he noted, "In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL," the letter adds.
In conclusion, the letter says: "The world is watching and clear moral leadership by your Administration is needed to declare and subsequently stop such atrocities in order to preserve these ancient communities. It is our belief that officially declaring and subsequently halting this genocide is a matter of vital moral and strategic importance for the United States, the international community, and the overall state of religious freedom around the world."