WASHINGTON — The United States and other world powers are directly responsible for the escalating refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq because of their inaction toward protecting uprooted religious communities from the torturous Islamic State terror organization, a group of human rights activists proclaimed Wednesday.
At a National Press Club panel discussion kicking off a three-day summit on the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians organized by In Defense of Christians, prominent Christian human rights activists called on the United States government to not only recognize the Islamic State's atrocities as "genocide," but also to coordinate a plan to destroy the group and protect peaceful refugees of all religions.
"My parents and I became human rights defenders precisely to ensure that nothing like the Holocaust would ever happen again," former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Katrina Lantos Swett, said during the panel.
"As we all know, what the world promised would never happen again is happening today — mass murder, mass rape, mass torture. All of this is happening through ISIL and like-minded groups as I speak."
As ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria are being destroyed by IS and has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee from their homes, former Liberty University vice president and author of the book Defying ISIS, Johnnie Moore, issued a statement that was read aloud during the panel where he asserted that Western leaders can carry much of the blame for the increased plight of the persecuted Middle Eastern refugees.
"The Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis is a full-on emergency, it's an emergency caused by the international community — not the least of which includes the United States — and it persists in exaggerated form because of our inaction, indifference, and sense of denial," Moore, who is also a Christian Post senior contributing editor, wrote. "Now, we have a moral obligation to fix the problem we have partly created.
"It took a dead child on a beach in Turkey in order to resuscitate the heart of the international community," Moore continued. "This is a moral travesty."
Moore also provided steps that the U.S. and other international governments should take in order to protect the persecuted refugees and the endangered ancient Christian communities.
First, the U.S. and U.N. must recognize IS' atrocities as "genocide." Moore then argued that the the U.S. should begin issuing visas to victims of genocide and provide them with opportunities to immigrate to the U.S.
"I believe we must provide abundant aid and security to those who aim to stay and we must provide aid and legal and safe means of immigration for those who choose to leave," Moore stated. "If we do not provide support and a legal and safe path of evacuation, then we will continue to watch people die at the hands of human traffickers and smugglers."
Catholic University law professor Robert Destro and former Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., added that the international community needs to do more to hold IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other militants accountable for the heinous murders and rapes they've committed. One possible action would be the United Nations Security Council asking the International Criminal Court to begin an investigation into IS' crimes against humanity.
"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless," Wolf said, quoting anti-Nazzi Lutheren Pastor Dietrick Bonhoeffer. "Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
Destro further argued that the U.S. government's trend of turning a blind eye to religious-based extremism is what is helping allow such acts of violence to continue.
"It is our own fault that we officially, here in the United States, have taken the position on foreign policy that religion is a problem, so we don't look at what goes on," Destro said. "There used to be a great old comic strip called Pogo. Pogo used to say, 'We have the met the enemy and he is us.' I think we have ourself to blame."
Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, explained that part of the problem is that the U.S. has historically has not responded to cases of genocide because political leaders have viewed genocide as a "political commodity" instead of a "moral imperative."
He cited the religious persecution in Sudan and the Armenian genocide in Turkey as examples of how the U.S. government has previously overlooked human rights issues simply because of short-sighted "business" interests with those governments.
"Right now, the perpetrators of genocide know that if they commit these crimes and they have sufficient political power, they can get the world to back off, to not intervene and buy into their lies," Hamparian asserted. "I guarantee you, the crimes that are being committed today will be denied tomorrow. If they have sufficient power, the deniers of those crimes will get away with it. The atrocities against Christians, Yazidis and others will be written out of the history books."
At the end of the panel discussion, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., arrived to announce that he introduced a resolution on the House floor Wednesday that calls on the U.S. government to label IS' atrocities as genocide.
"Christians and other peoples have every much a right to their ancient homelands as anyone else. So today in Congress, we have introduced a resolution that calls this what it is — it's a genocide," Fortenberry told the audience.
"The initial response that we are getting, I think is a hopeful indication of what will happen in Congress, that this will gain momentum, and international consciousness will be raised, and that the difficult problem of how to deal with the unjust structures that have led to this genocide will be addressed quickly."