U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has officially declared that the atrocities being perpetrated against Christians in the Middle East by the Islamic State terrorist group is "genocide," a move that has earned him the praise of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).
The Secretary of State officially determined that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria on Thursday, meeting a congressional deadline for a decision, according to the Associated Press. Earlier this week, the House passed a nonbinding resolution by a 393-0 vote condemning IS atrocities as genocide.
In making his decision, Kerry reportedly weighed whether the militants' targeting of Christians and other minorities meets the definition of genocide, according to the U.N. Convention: "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group."
"In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control" Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. "Daesh is genocidal by self-acclimation, by ideology and by practice."
Saying that he was "neither judge nor prosecutor nor jury," Kerry added that any potential criminal charges against the extremists must result from an independent international investigation and asserted that the U.S. would continue to support efforts to collect evidence and document atrocities.
However, the Secretary of State said he hoped that Christians suffering in the Middle East would take some comfort in the fact that the "the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes committed against them."
On Thursday, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, the author of the House bill, commended Kerry's decision, stating, "The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority. I sincerely hope that the genocide designation will raise international consciousness, end the scandal of silence, and create the preconditions for the protection and reintegration of these ancient faith communities into their ancestral homelands."
The NRB also praised the decision in a press release made available to The Gospel Herald on Thursday afternoon: "I applaud and welcome Secretary Kerry's announcement this morning that ISIS is perpetrating genocide against Christians and other minorities," stated Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB. "Now the United States is morally compelled to act in defense of our brothers and sisters whose lives and cultural heritage are being viciously assaulted simply because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."
The release notes that NRB has and will continue to urge for U.S. government and faith leaders to "acknowledge the reality of, and to pursue a call to action against, the persecution of Christians overseas, particularly in ISIS-occupied regions."
As earlier reported by The Gospel Herald, Proclaim 16, the NRB International Christian Media Convention, held a special session on the genocide of Christians in the Middle East featuring Canon Andrew White, Vicar Emeritus of St. George's Church in Baghdad, who shared sobering firsthand accounts of the horror perpetrated by the terror group.
"Most of our people are not in Baghdad anymore. I was in Baghdad. But ISIS came in and they basically destined to massacre our people," White recalled.
He illustrated how the city's Christian population lived under constant threat, forcing them to escape with "whatever they had on their backs" to Erbil in northern Iraq and some farther on to Jordan. While their bodies were safe, "their hopes were destroyed," White lamented.
The pastor also described how ISIS abducted women and girls as young as nine and made them sex slaves. Unfortunately, the only way to secure freedom for those kidnapped was to buy them back -- which the pastor did, using almost all of his own inheritance money.
White revealed that during his time serving as head of St. George's Church-- the only Anglican church in Iraq--he invited members of the extremist group into his home to share with them the love of Christ.
"I have a tradition. I always invite people, even bad people, to come have dinner with me. I invited some of the ISIS leaders," he said. "They said, 'If we come, we'll chop your head off.' I didn't invite them again."
He shared one particularly heartbreaking story, where he met with a family who had lost their father. The pastor asked the small boy, Mario, what he could do for him.
"He put his arms around me," White recalled, "and he said, 'Father, will you be my daddy? Can you get me in school?"
The vicar ended with a challenge for Christians around the world: "We Christians! We talk about looking after the Persecuted Church. You talk about helping those who are suffering for their faith. But do you mean it? Or is it just talk and prayer?" he asked.
White clarified that while "prayer is a very good thing," it's even more important to "pray for peace and pay for peace."
"It's no good praying and doing nothing. If you really care, you will provide for those in need," he said, referencing James 2:14-17, which states, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."=
"These are your people," he concluded. "Will you come back with me, metaphorically, and help your brothers and sisters?"