ISIS Genocide: Will US Back Up Its Tough Talk?
WASHINGTON -- While the Obama administration's decision to designate ISIS's atrocities against Christians and other minorities as "genocide" is important, many warn that it's only the beginning of the process.
Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement Thursday.
"In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control," Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the jihadist army.
It's a critical first step towards protecting Christians from ISIS and other Islamic radicals in Iraq and Syria.
"Every jihadist in the Middle East believes they can kill, kidnap, enslave and otherwise torture Christians and other religious minorities and they believe they can do it without repercussions," said Johnnie Moore, author of the book Defying ISIS.
In northern Iraq, Assyrian Christians are an ancient people descended from the first followers of Christ.
"As Assyrians of the Middle East we are on the verge of extinction," warned Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, an organization that raises awareness about the persecuted Church in Iraq.
Taimoorazy recently visited Telskuf in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq, where 200,000 Christians have fled from ISIS.
"The homes are destroyed when you walk inside," she said. "Their closets are all broken, the beds are all overturned - the kitchens are destroyed."
Secretary Kerry's genocide designation helps keep the plight of these Christians near the front of U.S. foreign policy.
Advocates wasted no time celebrating. They're already working with the State Department to ensure Christians are represented in Syrian peace talks and that property rights for those forced to flee their homes in Iraq are enforced.
"There are going to be borders redrawn, constitutions redrafted," Nina Shea, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told CBN News.
"It's absolutely essential that the Christians have a voice in this process or they will have no place in the new Syria or in the new Iraq," she warned.
There's already an effort to create a safe haven in the Nineveh Plains so that Christians, Yazidis and other minorities can return home, govern themselves and rebuild their lives without fear of extermination.
"If you care about the presence of Christianity, the Christian witness, in this very Gospel poor part of the world you will support the idea of a safe haven," Robert Nicholson, executive director of the Philos Project, told CBN News.
In spite of the horrors they've experienced at the hands of ISIS, Christians in this part of the world are experiencing a revival of their faith.
"They have told me repeatedly it's because of persecution that has been inflicted on them that they have grown closer to Christ that they find themselves praying more that they're thirsty for the Gospel more," Taimoorazy said.
Now the same advocates who pushed for the genocide designation are moving to keep up the pressure, hoping to ensure the Obama administration not only talks, but acts to protect those persecuted Christians and other religious minorities.
They hope to make real progress before the next administration moves into the White House.