Lawmakers press for Christians to be included in ISIS genocide designation

Lawmakers press for Christians to be included in ISIS genocide designation
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A bipartisan group of 30 lawmakers is urging the Obama administration to include Christians in any official designation of genocide it may make against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“We are gravely concerned by persistent press reports that the administration is preparing a genocide finding that would apply only to Yazidis, and may avoid judgment about whether ISIL is also committing genocide against Christians and the other minorities it is eliminating,” the lawmakers, led by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryUN chief warns unchecked climate change will mean 'survival of the richest' Conservatives rip FBI over IG report: 'scathing indictment' Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill MORE dated Wednesday.

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The administration is reportedly close to labeling ISIS’s slaughter of Yazidis genocide, with Assistant Secretary of State Anne Paterson telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month that “there will be some announcements on that very shortly.”

The genocide designation is a rare move that would have legal implications for doing more to protect the religious group.

The designation, though, will reportedly not include Christians, who are also a target of ISIS.

Critics have said the administration is not doing enough to protect Christians from ISIS, including admitting few Christian Syrians as refugees to the United States.

On Thursday, presidential candidate Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (R-Fla.) also called for more aid for persecuted Christians.

In their letter, the lawmakers highlight that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) included Christians in its call for a designation of genocide.

“USCIRF calls on the U.S. government to designate the Christian, Yazidi, Shi’a, Turkmen and Shabak communities of Iraq and Syria as victims of genocide by” ISIS, the commission said in a statement earlier this month.

The lawmakers argued that only including Yazidis in a genocide designation would discount the violence faced by other minorities.

“At the hands of ISIL, Christians and other minorities have faced mass murder, crucifixions, sexual slavery, torture, beheadings, the kidnapping of children and other violence deliberately calculated to eliminate their communities from the so-called Islamic State,” they wrote, using an alternate acronym for the group.

Because an official designation of genocide is rare, the lawmakers said Congress should be involved in the process.

“An official genocide determination by the administration is a rare and weighty occasion — one that should include thorough consultation with Congress,” they wrote. “As members of Congress, we will continue to insist that any genocide finding must reflect the actual experience of all minorities whose communities are being erased and whose families are being slaughtered because of their faith.”

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