Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Calls ISIS Atrocities Against Christians “Genocide”

Mar 15, 2016
Press Release
Crucifixion of Christians Cannot Stand

12-Year-old Butchered then Crucified for Refusing to Denounce His Faith 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today called on the Obama administration to designate the slaughter of Christians by ISIS as genocide – an official term used only once in history by a U.S. administration while a conflict was ongoing. In 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell declared genocide in response to the slaughter of civilians in Darfur, Sudan.

The terrorist group has decimated the Christian population of Iraq and Syria. Fewer than 300,000 Christians are left in Iraq – home of an ancient tradition of deep Christian faith – according to one Iraqi Catholic priest. Some estimates put the number of Iraqi Christians at 2 million before the ISIS occupation began.

According to Christian Aid Mission, a humanitarian group, 12 Christians were murdered late last year in Syria for refusing to renounce their faith. "In front of the team leader and relatives in the crowd, the Islamic extremists cut off the fingertips of the boy and severely beat him, telling his father they would stop the torture only if he, the father, returned to Islam," Christian Aid revealed, according to a report from Morning Star News. "When the team leader refused, relatives said, the ISIS militants also tortured and beat him and the two other ministry workers. The three men and the boy then met their deaths in crucifixion."

ISIS has undertaken a sustained, methodical campaign of crucifixion, mass murder, beheading and other horrific actions – all designed to exterminate religions and ethnicities that do not align with their twisted worldview. According to a United Nations report, “Women and children remain particularly vulnerable, with ongoing reports of sexual violence, including sexual slavery, and the forcible recruitment and use of children in hostilities.”

Buchanan praised House passage Monday of legislation recognizing the terror campaign being waged by ISIS as genocide. The resolution, H.Con.Res. 75, states that “those who commit or support atrocities against Christians and other ethnic and religious minoritiesand 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."” 

And while congressional action sends an important signal that ISIS’s murderous actions must be declared genocide, an official declaration must be made by the executive branch. Secretary of State John Kerry is in charge of reviewing the case against ISIS. Congress passed legislation late last year requiring the administration to make a formal determination of whether genocide has occurred by March 17, 2016 – but Secretary Kerry is unlikely to meet the deadline, according to news reports.

"There’s no excuse for Secretary Kerry to miss this deadline," Buchanan said. "But the administration’s response to systematic extermination of Christians cannot just end with a designation of genocide. The president still has yet to submit his plan to defeat ISIS. Congress has spoken - now it’s time for the White House to act. Millions of Christians face religious persecution as ISIS looks to expand its influence beyond the Middle East."

Buchanan also acknowledged that the Obama administration has made some encouraging statements on the issue. Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, noted last week the State Department is taking a close look at the designation of ISIS as perpetrators of genocide and that it is something the president takes "quite seriously."

A number of influential individuals and organizations have said that the terror group’s targeting of religious minorities in the Middle East should be classified as genocide, including Pope Francis, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Holy See’s representative to the U.N., and the European Parliament.