The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday in France to designate the ongoing mass slaughter in the Middle East being carried out by the Islamic State terror group against minorities a "genocide," something which religious freedom advocacy groups said could save lives.
"Genocide is an internationally recognized legal term and it is necessary to call for further steps such as a referral by the U.N. Security Council to the International Criminal Court in order to condemn and punish the perpetrators of genocide. We hope that the resolution that the European Parliament adopted today will ultimately help to save lives," Sophia Kuby, director of EU Advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom International, told The Christian Post in a statement.
Kuby added that Christians in the Middle East are in urgent need of international institutions like the EU Parliament to recognize their plight.
What is significant about the genocide resolution, which last week was also passed by the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe, is that it calls on nations that are signatories to the U.N. Genocide Convention of 1948 to take action.
As ADF pointed out, the next step is for the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court, which will investigate the genocide further.
The EU resolution is also calling for the creation of a "special EU representative for Freedom of Religion in the World."
IS has captured significant territory across Iraq and Syria, though its influence has spread through affiliated groups in other countries as well, and has been reportedly carrying out mass murders against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities.
A number of world leaders have spoken out against the treatment of Christians in IS-held territory, with Britain's Prince Charles warning that believers might be entirely erased from their birth land within five years.
"According to Aid to the Church in Need, which is a truly remarkable organization, Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq within five years unless emergency help is provided on a greatly increased scale at an international level," the Prince of Wales warned back in December.
"This affects us all, consequently the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations."
The EU Parliament vote could also put pressure on the U.S. to issue a similar resolution declaring IS' actions a genocide, which would prompt more direct action. Such proposals have been introduced at the U.S. House and Senate, but they have not yet passed, despite calls by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The USCIRF has called for "American and other world leaders to condemn the genocidal actions and crimes against humanity of ISIL that have been directed at these groups and other ethnic and religious groups."
Others, however, such as U.S. State Department's Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein, have argued that President Barack Obama's administration won't change its strategy in Iraq and Syria regardless if such a resolution is passed.
"Had we a year ago made a determination about genocide crimes against humanity, it would have resulted in what we are doing [now]," Saperstein, who is a rabbi, said back in January at the introduction of the 2016 World Watch List by persecution watchdog group Open Doors.
"You phrase the question, 'Is there significance?' 'Is their importance?' We are doing what we would have done regardless of whether the designation had been made or not," he added.