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3/2/2016 2:45 PM, Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The United States House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed House Resolution (H.R.) 75, with overwhelming bipartisan support, declaring that “those who commit or support mass murder and atrocities against religious minorities” in the Middle East are guilty of “genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.”  This expanded previous narratives that only ISIS is committing genocide.  “Religious minorities” mainly refer to the Assyrian Christians, Chaldean Christians, and the Yezidi people (although all minority groups are mentioned in the Resolution).

H.R. 75’s passage is a victory and important first step in mandating US public recognition of religious minority genocide in Iraq and Syria.  It was introduced before the House Foreign Affairs Committee due to the incredible petition campaign launched by the Knights of Columbus (KOC) and In Defense of Christians (IDC).  Despite the fact that it may not bring immediate reprieve to the suffering masses of minorities in the region, this declaration shows bipartisan solidarity in recognizing the suffering of Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East. House Resolution (H.R.) 75 was introduced by U.S. Representatives Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Anna Eshoo of California.  The idea for the resolution was discussed at length between the KOC, IDC, their various allies, International Christian Concern’s advocacy department, and several members of Congress.  In the end, 200 bipartisan Representatives co-sponsored the bill before its unanimous passage on March 2, 2016.

The implications of this process mark a victory for religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.  A government declaring a genocide shows a new change in politically correct leaders who have typically been unwilling to unify together against a genocidal tragedy before it’s too late. Since the coining and defining of the term “genocide” in 1948 (following Hitler and Stalin’s brutal reign), politicians have frequently failed to publicly recognize when a “genocide” is occurring, either for political reasons or out of fear they may be forced to intervene and protect—as many UN resolutions mandate.

Although this resolution is not designed to be a “bill” or more formal “joint resolution” (both of which would mandate the President’s signature), H.R. 75 was formed as a Concurrent Resolution alongside H.R. 121 (below) to secure bipartisan consent on an important issue of national concern.  The passage of H.R. 75 by the Foreign Affairs Committee joins a chorus of world powers such as the European Parliament, who have already passed a similar resolution.  With bipartisan recognition in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pressure continues to mount on John Kerry and President Obama to declare an ongoing genocide of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

In a remarkable showing of solidarity with the Christian communities in the Middle East, U.S. Congressmen included in the resolution the fact that Middle East Christians, the oldest Christian populations, have been nearly “eviscerated” from the region by ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Branch, other extremist groups, and their respective financial supporters.

NJ Congressman Chris Smith introduced parallel (concurrent) resolution (H.R. 121) that also passed.  H.R. 121 calls for the US ambassador to the United Nations to propose the creation of an International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for War Crimes against the Syrian people.

Emma Lane, Regional Manager for the Middle East: “This is big step for humanity seeing unanimous support from a bipartisan Committee during such a divisive time in American Politics. The resolution comes as another small victory in the long journey to have the Obama Administration and John Kerry’s State Department officially declare that there is an ongoing “genocide” against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. Secretary Kerry has until March 17, 2016 to stand with the unanimous European Parliament and the Bipartisan House Foreign Affairs Committee in declaring that Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are victims of a horrific genocidal campaign.  His silence on the issue has been a difficult topic for the Obama Administration to overcome and explain. Our prayers are that President Obama’s silence regarding the genocide is not related to any Administration strategies to maintain a positive “legacy” as election season seeks new Executive leadership in the US. We pray that the Administration and Mr. Kerry stand with the world, overcoming politically-motivated or self-serving stances to join much of the Western world in publicly recognizing the plight of the various Christian groups, Yezidis, and religious minorities in a firm declaration that we have not forgotten their plight.”