Friday 30. July 2021
#189 - January 2016

Persecution of Christians: on going and incipient genocide

Increasing evidences suggest that the so-called “ISIS/Da'esh” is committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against Christians and other religious minorities such as Yazidis in the territory under its control.

The European Parliament resolution of 30 April 2015recognised that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and that more than 150,000 are killed every year. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, has recognised that the persecution of Christians has been “undervalued” and “hasn’t been properly addressed.” The invisibility of that persecution in European media and lack of interest by large part of the political establishment can be seen as unfair. There are only a few exceptions.


Of particular concern is the situation of Christians in the Middle East, where their numbers have dropped dramatically: e.g., in Iraq -from 1,4 million (2003) to about 300,000 currently-, and Syria -from 1.25 million (2011) to as few as 500,000 today. Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq potentially within five years, and could face the same fate in most of the countries of the Middle East. As Mgr. Jean Kockerols emphasised in the Ad Hoc High Level Meeting in the European Parliament on 1 December 2015: “Christians contribute hugely to the life and wellbeing of e.g. Middle Eastern societies. The higher the number of Christians, the less the risk of radicalization! (…) Schools, hospitals, clinics staffed and run by Christian teachers, scholars and medical personnel are all forced out of existence.” The end of Christian presence in the Middle East would represent not only an immense historical and cultural loss, but a danger for the security, stability within the region, and international peace.


Crimes by the so-called “ISIS-Daesh”

Christians are one of the most vulnerable groups in Iraq and Syria. They are permanently and systematically targeted by the so-called “ISIS/Da’esh”, which is intentionally looking for their total physical and cultural disappearance in the territories that are under its control. Christians have being killed, slaughtered, beaten, abducted and tortured, or been subject to extorsion; they have been made into slaves (in particular women and girls, also subject to other forms of sexual violence), forcibly converted into Islam, and have been victims of forced marriage, and trafficking in human beings; children have been also forcibly recruited into Islam. Christian churches and religious and cultural sites have been vandalised. The UN and others have qualified these crimes against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities, including Yezidis, as war crimes, crimes against humanity and, even, genocide.


Incipient and ongoing genocide

Article II of the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide defines it as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a (…) religious group”: killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to its members; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its partial or total physical destruction; imposing measures preventing births within the group; or forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.


The Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Iraq in the light of abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups, of 27 March 2015 has considered that some of “the acts of violence perpetrated against civilians because of their affiliation or perceived affiliation to an ethnic or religious group (…) may constitute genocide.“ A similar view has been adopted by the UN Report on the Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq (11 December 2014 – 30 April 2015). This is what Christians and Yezidis are experiencing in Iraq and Syria in areas controlled by the so-called “ISIS/Da’esh”: an incipient and on-going process of genocide. The European Parliament in its resolution of 12 March 2015 on recent attacks and abductions by ISIS/Da’esh in the Middle East, notably of Assyrians has been also outspoken in saying that the ISIS/Da’esh’s “egregious human rights abuses that amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes … and which could be called genocide."


The international community and its members are morally and legally obliged to prevent genocide and, when it has already started, to take collective action to stop it and prosecute those who conspire, plan, incite, commit or attempt to commit, and are complicit or support genocide.

José Luis Bazán


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Note: The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Jesuit European Office and COMECE.