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Thanks to a largely-ignored provision in the FY2016 Omnibus Spending Bill, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are running out of time to make a determination regarding ISIS’ genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

Section 7033.d of the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2016 states that:

Not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State...shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees an evaluation of the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists...including whether [the] situation constitutes mass atrocities or genocide.

The act essentially forces the President and Secretary of State’s hand to make a determination about whether or not Christians and other religious minorities such as Yazidis and Shia Muslims have suffered genocide at the hands of ISIS. This comes at a time when human rights organizations have called, to no avail, for a formal designation on behalf of the U.S. government for months. Despite a massive amount of readily-available evidence broadcast over social media for more than a year, the Obama Administration has still failed to acknowledge the crimes for what they are.

The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states:

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Since ISIS’ brutal rise to power over the summer of 2014, the group’s militants, generals, and propagandists have had zero qualms about broadcasting their acts of terror as a recruiting tool via social media. Whether it has been the systematic massacre of 1700 Shias in Tikrit, the ongoing enslavement of thousands of Christian and Yazidi girls and women, or the killing of children and babies with Down Syndrome, ISIS has been committing genocide since those black flags first emerged from the wilderness and they’ve wanted us to know about every single moment of it.

This is not the first time that America has stood idly by as genocide happened in plain sight.

Nonetheless, despite countless political and religious leaders calling for a formal declaration of what is blatantly obvious; despite the efforts of religious, business, political and academic heavyweights of all sorts of backgrounds penning an open letter President Obama and Secretary Kerry in October; and despite the pleas from a group of thirty experts to simply brief officials on the situation, there has been no designation. There has been no action. There has been only a haunting and eerily familiar silence. 

This is not the first time that America has stood idly by as genocide happened in plain sight. A read of U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power’s tome “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” shows that the forces of political expediency, bureaucracy, and what diplomat Richard Holbrooke referred to as ‘Vietmalia Syndrome’ kept former administrations from addressing mass atrocities Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda during the Carter and Clinton Administrations. Now it seems that the Obama Administration is determined to repeat the errors of the past.

The reasons for acknowledging the atrocities as genocide are manifold. As a legal issue, genocide is mankind’s ultimate crime. Before you can indict, prosecute and punish the people responsible for this heinous act, you have to formally acknowledge that something has happened in the first place. Houses don’t stop burning and people don’t stop being killed because you cover your ears and attempt to drown out their cries for help.

When it comes to ISIS, the difference between terror and genocide is nothing more than a question of available and fungible resources.

As a moral issue, again, this is mankind’s ultimate crime. Christian and other communities, many of whom still speak the same language as Jesus Christ, and were worshipping Him while many of our European ancestors were still polytheists, are being wiped out of their ancestral homelands. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a nonpartisan, independent government watchdog, wrote in its 2015 report:

Yazidis and Christians have borne the worst brunt of the persecution by ISIL and other violent religious extremists. From summary executions to forced conversions, rape to sexual enslavement, abducted children to destroyed houses of worship, attacks on these communities are part of a systematic effort to erase their presence from the Middle East.

On December 7th of last year, the Commission issued the following statement, joining with the chorus of voices already demanding a designation:

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 ISIL.  USCIRF also urges American and other world leaders to condemn the genocidal actions and crimes against humanity of ISIL that have been directed at these groups and other ethnic and religious groups.

On the issue of national security, ISIS’ followers have proven that they will not be hindered by things such as borders, oceans or hemispheres. The attacks in Paris and San Bernardino should prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that, as long as this group’s atrocities remain unaddressed, its adherents will be willing to export them to any corner of the Earth in which the infidel live free and unmolested. When it comes to ISIS, the difference between terror and genocide is nothing more than a question of available and fungible resources.

Finally, empirical evidence suggests that using what some refer to as “the g-word” instead of euphemisms like ethnic cleansing actually drives response. “Bystanders’ use of the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ signals the lack of will to stop genocide, resulting in huge increases in deaths. Doing so undermines international legal obligations to acknowledge genocide,” argues a research abstract from the European Journal of Public Health co-written by Genocide Watch President Gregory H. Stanton. Furthermore, history shows that targeted classes need the protections offered by such a designation:

Groups that have been designated as genocide victims are much more likely to receive military protection, including arming and training their militias for self-defense, which is always the best defense against genocide,” said Stanton in an interview in December. “Members of such groups are also much more likely to receive preferential treatment as bona fide refugees under the U.N. convention and protocols on the status of refugees.

As of right now, there has somehow been some contention over whether or not Christians have experienced atrocities that meet the requirements set forth in Article II. Nina Shea has succinctly addressed this, saying:

Christians have been executed by the thousands. Christian women and girls are vulnerable to sexual enslavement. Many of their clergy have been assassinated and their churches and ancient monasteries demolished or desecrated. They have been systematically stripped of all their wealth, and those too elderly or sick to flee ISIS-controlled territory have been forcibly converted to Islam or killed, such as an 80-year-old woman who was burned to death for refusing to abide by ISIS religious rules. Pope Francis pronounced their suffering ‘genocide’ in July. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a broad array of other churches have done so as well. Analysis from an office of the Holocaust Museum apparently relied on by the State Department asserts that ISIS protects Christians in exchange for jizya, an Islamic tax for ‘People of the Book,’ but the assertion is simply not grounded in fact.

Obviously, Christians are victims of this genocide as well, and anyone who has been living in the real world and paying attention to the news can see that. Will the Obama Administration see ISIS' actions for what they are? 

Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religion and culture. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate has previously written for World Magazine, The Washington Times, Catholic News Service, Patheos, Ethika Politika, and The Christian Post. Follow him @NateMadden_IV.