A coalition of Christians and human rights advocates sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging that Christians - who have been subjected to murder, rape, dispossession, and persecution by the Islamic State and elements of the Muslim Brotherhood - must not be excluded from a finding of genocide in the Middle East. The coalition plans to present evidence to Kerry about the depredations of the Islamic State on Christians and other non-Muslims such as the Yazidi people.
The December 4 letter was signed by Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, Katrina Lantos Swett of the Lantos Foundation, and R. Albert Mohler Jr. of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, among others.
The text of the letter is as follows:
"The Genocide Convention defines genocide as killing and certain other acts 'committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.' We have extensive files supporting a finding that ISIS' treatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets this definition.
"They include evidence of ISIS assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; its sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; its practices of forcible conversions to Islam; its destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and its theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.
"We will also present ISIS' own, public statements taking 'credit' for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its 'Islamic State.' ... ISIS genocidal campaign against Christians continues today, with hundreds of Christians remaining in ISIS captivity, and with summary executions, including by beheading and crucifixion, occurring as recently as only a few months ago."
Coptic Christian icon commemorating the Christian martyrs of Libya
The letter continues, "Pope Francis has called ISIS' crimes against Christians by their proper name: 'genocide.' The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Christian leaders in the Middle East have done so as well. We agree, and are hopeful that, once you have seen the evidence, you will too."
Signatories to the letter include:
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Ecumenical Director and Legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern);
Princeton University Professor Robert P. George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom;
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon;
Chaldean Catholic Bishop Sarhad Y. Jammo of San Diego;
Baylor University historian Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity;
Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress;
Very Reverend James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine;
Maronite Catholic Bishop Gregory Mansour of Brooklyn, N.Y.;
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary;
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom;
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation; and
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.