WASHINGTON, March 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Knights of Columbus welcomes the support of the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for its petition asking Secretary of State John Kerry to declare that genocide is taking place against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS and its affiliates.
With the State Department facing a Congressionally-mandated deadline of March 17 by which to make a determination on genocide, USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville wrote in a statement today: "I urge every Catholic to sign the petition at www.stopthechristiangenocide.org. As a people of faith, we must convince the United States Department of State to include Christians in any formal declaration of genocide." He added: "I am grateful to my brother bishops, the Knights of Columbus and all the faithful who have struggled to keep a focus on suffering Christians in the national debate. Rest assured of my continued prayers and support."
Many American bishops — including Archbishop Kurtz as well as the chairman of the USCCB Committee on International of Justice and Peace, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces — have signed the petition, as did Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and a number other religious leaders, scholars and other public figures. In total, the petition has drawn more than 100,000 signatures over the course of a month.
The petition points out that ISIS' targeted program of killings, rapes, kidnappings and other acts of terrorism against Christians and other religious minorities clearly meets the definition of genocide.
"We thank the USCCB and its president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, for their support on this critical issue," said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. "Lives are at stake. The truth is at stake. For Catholics, this must be a time of action. We must urge the State Department to do the right thing, the thing much of the rest of the world has done already: namely, to call what ISIS is doing to Christians — and other religious minorities — genocide."
World leaders from Angela Merkel to Pope Francis have called what is happening at the hands of ISIS genocide. The European Parliament, a number of European countries and leaders, the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, as well as bishops and Christians throughout the Middle East have all clearly called this genocide. By almost 20 points (55 percent to 36 percent) a majority of the American people agree that Christians and other religious minorities face genocide, according to a December K of C-Marist poll. Two hundred-plus bipartisan members of Congress and presidential candidates of both parties, from Ted Cruz to Hillary Clinton, have all called this genocide.
Launched in February, the Knights' online petition has been promoted via a nationwide TV ad that cites Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio on the side of a genocide declaration.
A major step in making the case for genocide was a report given to the State Department March 9 and released Thursday, March 10, at a news conference in Washington. The report made the legal and fact-based case for a genocide declaration, pointing out that the bar for the State Department to do so is low: probable cause.
The 280-page report is available online and includes comprehensive information on Christians who have been killed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery, driven from their homes and dispossessed, as well as data on churches that have been destroyed. It also details interviews with witnesses who have seen the atrocities firsthand, collected during a Knights of Columbus fact-finding mission to Iraq last month.
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 and www.StopTheChristianGenocide.org.
SOURCE Knights of Columbus