WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new online petition is urging Secretary of State John Kerry not to exclude Christians from a declaration of genocide at the hands of ISIS. Co-sponsored by In Defense of Christians (IDC) and the Knights of Columbus, the petition can be signed at www.StopTheChristianGenocide.org
The petition is being promoted by a new nationwide TV ad that includes quotes by Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio endorsing a genocide declaration for Christians in the Middle East, a position supported by 55 percent of Americans, according to a 2015 K of C-Marist poll.
"Christians in Iraq and Syria have suffered injustice after injustice by being kidnapped, killed, having their homes and churches confiscated or destroyed, and being forced to flee for their lives. Because of hit squads, they fear to enter UN refugee camps and, as a result, are then often excluded from immigration to the West," said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, who signed the petition and testified on the matter before a congressional subcommittee in December.
He added, "After all of this, these people deserve to have the U.S. State Department call what has happened to them by its rightful name: genocide — just as the European Parliament, Pope Francis, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and so many other prominent individuals and institutions have already done."
IDC Executive Director Kirsten Evans said, "The International Association of Genocide Scholars, over 200 members of Congress and over 70 human rights experts and organizations, spanning the nation's religious and political spectrum, have raised their voices that the treatment of these communities by ISIS meets even the strictest definition of genocide under international law, and must be treated as such."
The State Department is required by law to make a designation one way or the other on the matter by mid-March.
Signers of the petition "implore" Secretary Kerry "to speak up on behalf of these brutalized minority populations." They conclude by urging him "to declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide," arguing that such a declaration meets the criteria established by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
In just its first hours, the online petition attracted some 15,000 signatures, including those of Gov. John Kasich of Ohio; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; U.S. Bishops Conference President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz; Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals; Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan Prelate, Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern Prelacy); historian Philip Jenkins; human rights experts and activists; and Hollywood Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.
The Knights of Columbus — the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization, with 1.9 million members worldwide —began its Christian Refugee Relief Fund in 2014, with a particular focus on the Middle East. To date, more than $8 million has been raised to provide housing, food, medical aid, education and general relief to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities, especially from Iraq and Syria, and to raise awareness about their plight, including through a #40BucksForLent effort launched on Ash Wednesday. Additional information is available at www.ChristiansAtRisk.org
IDC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks the protection and preservation of Christians and Christianity in the Middle East through raising global awareness, mobilizing international support, and educating policymakers toward constructive international policies on their behalf. www.indefenseofchristians.org
SOURCE Knights of Columbus