In years past the United States was known for leading, not following. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has put us in the position of following after months of ignoring the most sweeping attacks on people of faith in a generation. While ISIS burns its way through the Middle East, major world powers have condemned the acts as “genocide” — including, most recently, the European Parliament. Yesterday, the body unanimously passed a resolution calling the atrocities against religious minorities what it is — a systematic extinction of certain faith-based communities. And while Europe rarely leads the way on human rights, it has done so here, clearing a path for others — namely, America — to follow suit.
For Parliament, this is new territory. As several noted on Thursday, it’s the first time members have recognized a conflict as genocide. But, the group was firm: “those who intentionally commit atrocities for ethnic or religious reasons should be brought to justice for violations against international law, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”
A member of the Swedish delegation celebrated the EP’s decision to get off the sidelines and start using its influence to stop the suffering. “It’s really important that the Parliament passed it,” he told Newsweek, “on a political level and a moral level. The significance is the obligations that follow by such a recognition. The collective obligation to intervene, to stop these atrocities and to stop the persecution in the ongoing discussion about the fight against the Islamic State.”
Also important, he notes, is that it “It gives the victims of the atrocities a chance to get their human dignity restored. It’s also a historical confirmation that the European Parliament recognized what is going on and that they are suffering from the most despicable crime in the world, namely genocide.”FRC’s Travis Weber, who’s commented widely about the president’s shameful silence, ticked off some of the evidence that led to Parliament’s decision. “[O]n the night of 6 August 2014 more than 150,000 Christians fled the advance of the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh’ over Mosul, Qaraqosh and other villages in the Nineveh Plains, having been robbed of all their belongings, and to date they remain displaced and in precarious conditions in northern Iraq; the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh’ captured those who were unable to flee from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, and non-Muslim women and children were enslaved, with some being sold and others brutally killed and filmed by the perpetrators.”
Not surprisingly, the press is anxious to know when the administration will stop looking the other way and intervene. Asked why the president is virtually alone in his decision not to designate the mass killings as “genocide,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied that the designation has “legal ramifications” — which is exactly the point.
The United States can help bring the moral and legal weight of the international community to bear on ISIS. It’s possible, Travis suggests, that President Obama doesn’t want to be on the hook for acting seriously to prevent genocide or that he doesn’t want to be seen as a Christian apologist on the world stage. “Either way,” he laments, “to prioritize such petty political considerations over truth, facts, and the law will be to our everlasting shame. Sadly, I suspect history will bear this out.”
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