In a much anticipated announcement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today used the word “genocide” to describe the campaign of persecution and killing being perpetrated by the terror group ISIS against religious minorities in the Middle East.
Mr. Kerry said that the terrorist organization “is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.” Echoing the words of the United Nations Genocide Convention, he said: “One element of genocide is the intent to destroy an ethnic or religious group in whole or in part.”
The statement comes three weeks after Secretary Kerry sat before a Congressional subcommittee, where he was strongly urged to call the terror campaign a genocide. At that time, Mr. Kerry said that he had asked his department for a “further evaluation” to be done before he would make a final determination on the use of the word.
His statement on March 17 comes on the same day that that a Congressional deadline on the matter was set to expire.
It also comes in the wake of a March 16 vote, in which the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning the atrocities committed by ISIS as genocide against Christian, Yezidi, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Alongside such organizations as the Knights of Columbus, Armenian groups were instrumental in working with Congressional leaders to craft and pass the resolution. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian and the Rev. Fr. Yeprem Kelegian joined the Armenian Assembly’s Bryan Ardouni to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), to speak in favor of the resolution. House member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), who has an Armenian background, was one of the bill’s principal sponsors.
The resolution’s passage also prompted congressmen—including Dave Trott (R-MI) and Ed Royce (R-CA)—to remind fellow members of the body’s failure to approve resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
As Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director, Archbishop Aykazian has been active among those advocating for an explicit acknowledgement of the killing of Mid-East Christians as genocide. He was among the prominent religious leaders and lawmakers who signed a December 4 letter urging the State Department to do so-an effort vindicated in today’s statement by Secretary Kerry.
The U.S. now joins the European Parliament in having formally acknowledged the ongoing genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.