Forty members of Congress have endorsed a resolution condemning Islamic State’s persecution of Christians as genocide.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska, introduced the bill Wednesday. A congressional source told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the number of co-sponsoring representatives reached 40 by Friday, and that there is also interest in the Senate.
Representatives backing the concurrent resolution come from both parties. The leading Democrat on the bill is Anna Eshoo, a California member whose parents both fled earlier waves of Christian persecution in the Middle East. At a press event Thursday, Eshoo lamented that “the story of my family and why history is repeating itself.” (RELATED: Congressional Group Fights ISIS Persecution Of Non-Muslims)
When the jihadis stormed through northern Iraq’s Christian heartland last summer, they systematically uprooted a community that had lived there for the better part of 2,000 years. They gave families the choice between death, conversion and an impossibly steep tax, so many tens of thousands left their homes behind with nothing. Since then, reports have also emerged of Islamic State’s systematic rape and enslavement of non-Muslim minorities.
Under international law, a formal recognition of genocide could be a game-changer for those religious and ethnic minorities most affected by Islamic State’s abuses. It would lay the groundwork for more systematic coordination between the U.S. and international partners on behalf of Islamic State’s victims — including possible military action, humanitarian relief, and fast-track refugee processing.
A U.N. report used the word “genocide” to describe Islamic State’s actions in March of this year. And at Thursday’s event, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the representative to the U.S. of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, encouraged the U.S. and other members of the international community to “join us and use the word.”
Iraqi Kurdistan is where many of Islamic State’s non-Muslim victims fled after the jihadis entered their home territory, and Kurdish forces known as peshmerga are on the front lines pushing back against the group. (RELATED: Top Iraqi Officer Was ON VACATION When ISIS Moved In Last Year)
Co-sponsoring Rep. Juan Vargas, another California Democrat, said in a statement: “These crimes against humanity must be properly acknowledged in order for the global community to appropriately respond to these infringements on religious freedom.”
The bill’s text also notes that Pope Francis has called the atrocities genocide — “and I stress the word genocide” — since July. Francis will be visiting Washington and giving a rare speech before Congress later this month. If Congress passes the resolution by the time he visits, it would be a boon for Francis as well as for those who have suffered at the hands of the terrorist group.
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