THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Byline:  

The mass torture, murder and displacement of Christian families and other religious minorities in the Middle East must be called by its real name — genocide — members of Congress said Thursday at a gathering of a nonpartisan organization that advocates against religious persecution.

“We can’t sit idly by … we have to commit to action,” Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Illinois Democrat, said at a meeting of supporters of In Defense of Christians on Capitol Hill.

“The answer to religious persecution should not be, ‘Oh, go somewhere else,’” said Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican.

IDC, formed in 2014, promotes preservation and protection of Christians in their historical communities in countries such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, as well as in the Holy Land areas of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

While Christians are IDC’s named focus, the nonprofit also advocates for human and conscience rights of other ethnic and religious minorities.

On Thursday, Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska Republican, and Anna Eshoo, California Democrat, introduced a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that those who commit atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities are committing “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.”

The resolution calls on signers of the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed in 1948, to be “reminded of their legal obligations” under the agreement.

It also says those who have forced the migration of religious communities from their ancestral homelands — especially the Nineveh Plain, the historic home of Yazidis — be “tracked, sanctioned, arrested, prosecuted and punished.”

“The oldest of the Christian communities are being wiped out,” as well as people of other religious backgrounds, Ms. Eshoo told the IDC event. “We really are called to do this … and I think future generations and historians will not judge us well if we don’t answer this call,” she said.

This kind of resolution will be submitted to parliaments worldwide, said Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic University of America and IDC board member.

Also, when Pope Francis visits Washington, D.C., in two weeks, there will be an effort to have him and House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, speak privately about the religious genocide issue, said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, South Carolina Republican.

Mr. Mulvaney told the IDC meeting that he had heard about horrible, “convert-or-die” actions of Islamic terrorists.

Islamic State fighters go “door to door to collect the tax” that ostensibly allows Christians and religious minorities to live peacefully in Islam-majority communities, said Mr. Mulvaney. But when a father says he will pay the tax, he is told it an enormous sum, such as $100,000, which he cannot pay.

He is then told, “in lieu of that, we will accept your daughter. Do you want to pay the tax now? Or do you want to convert?”

When the father refuses to do any of those things, the militants shoot his child in front of him — and go through the same process with other children and the wife, and then the father, said Mr. Mulvaney. “And then they go on the next house. It is religious genocide.”

Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, called for an end to anti-blasphemy laws, as they give rise to all kinds of abuses.

Among other recommendations were to end to U.S. financial aid to countries that abuse or permit abuse of Christian and other religious minorities; to step up humanitarian aid to refugees and minority communities; and to change processes to permit refugees into the United States.

Others called for the Obama administration to nominate a candidate for a new position created by Congress — a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

Ambassador Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman of Kurdistan told the IDC group that said her nation of 5 million is already swamped with 2 million refugees — with more coming.

These people are suffering genocide under international law — and this needs to be properly publicized, she said. Kurdish military are fighting against the Islamic State every day, she added, but we “cannot do this alone.”