U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared Islamic State (Daesh) actions in the Middle East against Christians, Yezidis and other religious groups to be genocide.

“In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Christians, Yezidis and Shia Muslims,” he stated on Thursday morning (March 17). “Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and in what it says, what it believes and what it does.”

Kerry also declared that the terrorist organization was guilty of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing against these groups, and, in some instances, against Sunni Muslims, Kurds and others as well.

After citing examples of IS atrocities that helped him reach his conclusion, Secretary Kerry said, “The fact is, Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia. Its entire worldview is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology.”

He added, “There is no question in my mind that if Daesh succeeded in establishing its so-called Caliphate, it would seek to destroy what remains of the ethnic and religious mosaic once thriving in the region.”

The announcement culminates months of research and analysis and meets a deadline for a determination set by Congress.

It reversed a Wednesday (March 16) statement made by the department’s deputy spokesperson Mark Toner that the congressional deadline wouldn’t be met.

Kerry’s determination follows a growing number of genocide declarations in the U.S. regarding IS actions against religious minorities in the Middle East.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a unanimous declaration on March 14; the Catholic-led Knights of Columbus, in partnership with In Defense of Christians, concluded that genocide was taking place on March 9, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum did so in November 2015.

Several international organizations, as well as political and religious leaders, have previously addressed this issue.

Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said on March 10 that genocide against Christians and other religious minorities was taking place. He praised Kerry’s announcement as “very welcomed but unexpected news.”

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Feb. 4 that labeled IS actions genocide, citing “the terrorist group’s deliberate targeting of Christians (Chaldeans/Syriacs/Assyrians, Melkites, Armenians), Yazidis, Turkmens, Shi’ites, Shabaks, Sabeans, Kaka’i and Sunnis who do not agree with their interpretation of Islam.”

Pope Francis said in July 2015 that “a form of genocide” was taking place in the Middle East during a visit to South America.

The United Nations’ human rights office said on March 19, 2015, that IS “may have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in its attacks against ethnic and religious groups.”

A few days earlier, Roman Catholic Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said of IS actions, “We have to stop this kind of genocide.”

Several Baptist-led organizations, including the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, have urged the U.S. to issue a declaration of genocide.

“As only the second time in the history of the United States where an ongoing conflict has been acknowledged as genocide, this significant marker for justice is a testament that policy makers, religious leaders, civil society actors and those being persecuted themselves can join together in solidarity against the voices of violence to empower movements that advance human rights and religious freedom as a universal right,” Elijah Brown, Wilberforce’s executive vice president, said of Kerry’s determination.

More than 20 articles related to genocide have appeared on EthicsDaily.com since February 2015, including an April 2015 series for Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.

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