Kerry Having ‘Additional Evaluation’ Done to Decide if Slaughter of Mideast Christians is Genocide

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 24, 2016 | 3:14 PM EST
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(CNSNews.com) - Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Assistance today that he is having an “additional evaluation” done to help him determine whether the systematic murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East—at the hands of the Islamic State and others—should be declared “genocide.”

“I will make a decision on it as soon as I have that additional evaluation and we will proceed forward from there,” Kerry said.

Kerry was responding to a question put to him by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.), who is the sponsor of a resolution that would declare on behalf of Congress that it is in fact genocide.

The resolution expresses “the sense of Congress that those who commit or support atrocities against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities, including Yezidis, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka‘e, and Kurds, and who target them specifically for ethnic or religious reasons, are committing, and are hereby declared to be committing, ‘war crimes,’ ‘crimes against humanity,’ and ‘genocide.’”

As a preface to his question, Fortenberry told Kerry about a young Syrian man who had been murdered by jihadists after refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

“I had the extraordinary privilege of being in the room with Pope Francis when he, in a very powerful moment, was given a small cross, a Christian crucifix,” said Fortenberry. “That crucifix had belonged to a young Syrian man who had been captured by the jihadists, and he was told to choose: Convert or die. And he chose his ancient faith tradition. He chose Christ, and he was beheaded.”

“His mother was able to recover the body, recover this cross, and bury him,” said Fortenberry. “She fled to Austria, which set the stage for this moment which I witnessed.”

“Mr. Secretary, this is repeating itself over and over and over again against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in the region,” said Fortenberry.

“What I’m urging here today,” said Fortenberry, “is that you use the authority and power of your office to call this genocide, to help restore the rich tapestry of the ancient faith traditions in the Middle East, to stop this assault on human dignity and civilization itself.”

Kerry said he is now considering declaring the targeting of Middle East Christians and other religious minorities in the region a genocide.

But, Kerry said, he has asked for “further evalution” to be done before he makes a final decision.

“I share just a huge sense of revulsion over these acts, obviously,” Kerry said. “None of us have ever seen anything like it in our lifetimes. Although, obviously, if you go back to the Holocaust, the world has seen it.

“We are currently doing what I have to do, which is review very carefully the legal standards and precedents for whatever judgment is made,” he said.

“I can tell you we are doing that,” he said. “I have had some initial recommendations made to me. I have asked for some further evaluation. And I will make a decision on this. And I will make a decision on it as soon as I have that additional evaluation and we will proceed forward from there.”

The Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians are sponsoring an online petition asking Kerry  to "declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other minorities, are targets on ongoing genocide."

Here is the transcript of the exchange between Fortenberry and Kerry:

Fortenberry: Mr. Secretary, I had the extraordinary privilege of being in the room with Pope Francis when he, in a very powerful moment, was given a small cross, a Christian crucifix. That crucifix had belonged to a young Syrian man who had been captured by the jihadists, and he was told to choose: Convert or die. And he chose his ancient faith tradition. He chose Christ, and he was beheaded.

His mother was able to recover the body, recover this cross, and bury him. And she fled to Austria, which set the stage for this moment which I witnessed.

Mr. Secretary, this is repeating itself over and over and over again against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in the region. In 2004, Colin Powell, when he was secretary of state, came before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and I believe you served on that committee at that point, and declared what was happening in Darfur to be a genocide.

There are 200 members of Congress in a bi-partisan fashion, we’ve put our names on a resolution that is forthcoming that declares this genocide. There is a growing international consensus in this regard. The European Parliament has passed something similar. The U.S. Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis has spoken out, Hillary Clinton has called it such, Marco Rubio, the international association of genocide scholars.

I want a note as well a word of thanks to you and President Obama for the quick action on Mount Sinjar that actually saved the lives of women and children, countless persons who would have been wiped out and victimized.

So, what I’m urging here today is that you use the authority and power of your office to call this genocide, to help restore the rich tapestry of the ancient faith traditions in the Middle East, to stop this assault on human dignity and civilization itself. And to set potentially the conditions that we are all hoping and praying for that re-establishes stability and reintegration of these ancient faith traditions into the fabric of the communities in the Middle East entirely.

I think the stability, the future stability, of the entire region depends upon this.

Kerry: Well again Congressman thank you for a very moving and eloquent description of the problem. And I appreciate, you were lucky to be in that room to witness that, and I certainly appreciate your reactions to it. And I share just a huge sense of revulsion over these acts, obviously. None of us have ever seen anything like it in our lifetimes. Although, obviously, if you go back to the Holocaust, the world has seen it.

We are currently doing what I have to do, which is review very carefully the legal standards and precedents for whatever judgment is made. I can tell you we are doing that. I have had some initial recommendations made to me. I have asked for some further evaluation. And I will make a decision on this. And I will make a decision on it as soon as I have that additional evaluation and we will proceed forward from there.

I understand how compelling it is. Christians have been moved in many parts now of the Middle East, I might add. This is not just in Syria, but in other places there has been an increased forced evacuation and displacement, which is equally disturbing, though it’s not—you know, they aren’t killing them in that case, but it’s a removal, and a cleansing ethnically and religiously, which is deeply disturbing. So we are very much focused on this. And, as I say, I will make a judgement soon.

Fortenberry: They have taken the conditions for life as well as life away from Christians, Yazidis, and religious minorities. And I bring up the declaration by former Secretary of State Colin Powell to demonstrate the power that the declaration actually has, because in doing so he helped put a stop to that grim reality there in Darfur.  

I know you share deep sympathies in this regard. I just urge you, and plead with you, partner with us. There is a growing consensus that this is not only true and real but I think, again, it sets the condition for whatever the future settlement we have to have.