Democratic presidential front runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton labeled the atrocities committed by the Islamic State terrorist organization against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East as "genocide."
During a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Tuesday, the 68-year-old Clinton explained that although she was reluctant to use the term "genocide" a few months ago to describe the IS atrocities, there is now "enough evidence" for her to use the word "genocide" to denounce the the murders of religious minorities by the jihadi group.
"What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS," Clinton said in response to a question during a town hall event.
Clinton's remark comes as religious freedom and human rights advocates have spent much of the last year trying to get the Obama administration to recognize IS' barbaric mistreatment of Christians and other religious minorities as "genocide."
Although the Obama administration moved to recognize the persecution faced by Yazidis in Iraq as genocide in November, the designation failed to recognize Christians who are being killed for their faith and almost entirely pushed out of the region.
While Christians, Shia Muslims and even Sunni Muslims who don't agree with ISIS' strict brand of sharia law are being massacred for their religious and political beliefs, Clinton noted that a "genocide" designation by the United States does carry legal ramifications.
"That term carries with it legal [importance]. It's a very important concept and label for behavior that deserves that name," Clinton stated. "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."
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., introduced a resolution in September calling on the U.S. government to recognize IS' persecution of Christians and other religious minorities as "genocide." The resolution has been co-sponsored by over 160 other members of Congress.
Earlier this month, the advocacy group In Defense of Christians held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill to explain to congressional staffers why it is so important for the U.S. to label to IS' mistreatment of religious minorities as "genocide."
"Why does the G-word matter? Why not simply call ISIS' crimes against Christians and others 'crimes against humanity?'" Dr. Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch and a research professor of genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University in Virginia, asked. "'Genocide' is much more powerful than 'crimes against humanity,' 'war crimes,' 'ethnic cleansing' or these ill-defined terms like 'global atrocity crimes.' Those don't even have a definition in the international law."
"'Ethnic cleansing' doesn't even exist in international law, nor does 'atrocity crimes,' whereas 'genocide' is actually in a convention." Stanton continued. "The reason why the word 'genocide' matters is because words matter. People act according to words."
Stanton added that history has proven that once the word "genocide" is used to classify heinous and widespread crimes against humanity, it is historically followed by swift international action to stop the atrocities.
Although the Obama administration has yet to label the persecution faced by Christians in Iraq and Syria as genocide, President Obama said last week that he was praying for God's protection over all the persecuted Christians this Christmas.
"We join with people around the world in praying for God's protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations," Obama said. "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."