U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution Monday declaring Islamic State extremists are committing true "genocide" against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The resolution passed with a unanimous vote of 383-0. There is a similar measure in the Senate on which to be voted. Historically, it is rare for Congress to make a genocide determination.
The resolution followed a graphic new report released by the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians on ISIS' atrocities. The report made the case that the terror campaign against Christians and other minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East is, in fact, genocide, reports Fox News.
The resolution was voted on ahead of a congressionally mandated March 17 deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House to decide about making such a declaration.
Kerry reportedly needs to consider whether the ISIS' targeting of Christians and other minorities meets the legal definition of "genocide," which is "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group," as defined by the U.N. Convention, reports International Business Times.
"This has to be done on the basis of the legal standard with respect to genocide and the legal standard with respect to crimes against humanity," Kerry said in congressional testimony late last month, according to the Associated Press. "I have asked for further evaluation based on what I've heard in order to test against the law some of my own perceptions and evaluations and see where we come out."
"When ISIS systematically targets Christians, Yezidis and other ethnic and religious minorities for extermination, this is not only a grave injustice, it is a threat to civilization itself," Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said in a statement. "We must call the violence by its proper name: genocide."
He said a declaration of genocide will set the preconditions for what must miraculously happen in the Middle East: A proper settlement of security, political, economic and cultural arrangements so that the religious minorities who once made up the rich tapestry of that region will have their rightful place restored.
"Christians, Yezidis, and other beleaguered minority groups can find new hope in this trans-partisan and ecumenical alliance against ISIS' barbaric onslaught," Fortenberry, who is co-chairman of the Religious Minorities of the Middle East Caucus and represents America's largest Yezidi community, said in the statement.
Fortenberry, who has shared different ways people of faith are suffering, said on March 4 he happened to be in the room on an extraordinary occasion when Pope Francis was given a small cross, a Christian crucifix that belonged to a young Syrian man. He had been captured by jihadists and then given a choice: convert or die, shared Fortenberry. "He chose his ancient faith tradition. He chose Christ. And he was beheaded."
The Syrian's mother was able to recover his body along with the crucifix and bury him. She then fled to Europe, encountered a priest who gave her support, and gave him the cross in gratitude. This series of events resulted in the profound moment when the cross came into the possession of the Holy Father, said Fortenberry.
Last week, Speaker Paul Ryan pointed out that ISIS militants were committing genocide when they recently killed 16 people, including four Catholic nuns, at a retirement home in southern Yemen. "This is the latest in a string of brutal attacks committed by ISIS against Christian and other minorities."
"We want to label what this is so this never happens and should not happen, and someone has to stand up," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News.
At least three presidential candidates -- Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- have called on the U.S. White House administration to designate ISIS atrocities against Christians as genocide.