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March 17, 2016, was not the first time the Obama administration had publicly spoken of “genocide” against Christians in the Middle East. On August 9, 2014, as ISIS took control of the cities of Erbil and Mosul in Northern Iraq, both Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said genocide was occurring. NBC and ABC reported as much, and a CBS reporter alluded to the statement.
But until March 2016, the administration never repeated the charge, and the networks lost interest.
Unfortunately, the rapes, kidnappings, forced conversions, extortions and exiles didn’t stop. Neither did the killings. In fact, the controversial website The Religion of Peace records Islamist terror attacks as they become known. The site lists 294 separate Islamist attacks specifically on Christians worldwide in the two years between January 2014 and June 2016. The death toll from those attacks was more than 4,000, with hundreds more wounded.
ISIS, famously dismissed by President Obama in early 2014 as a “JV squad,” grew and became so violent that al Qaeda renounced ties to it in 2014. While the networks repeated President
Obama’s assertion that ISIS was “contained,” the group continued to victimize thousands, often in spectacularly gruesome ways, and razed ancient Christian monasteries in acts of “cultural cleansing.”
The world is still learning the extent of the horror. On April 10, 2016, Syrian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II told the BBC that when ISIS first took the Syrian town of Al-Qaryatain in August 2015, the group kidnapped scores of Christians, and murdered 21 of them.
In an incident reported in a number of Christian newspapers and websites, and even in the secular Mirror (U.K.) – but not on the networks – ISIS captured 12 Christian missionaries near Aleppo, Syria on August 28, 2015. The terrorists raped the women. They cut off the fingers of a 12-year-old boy in front of his minister father before crucifying and eventually beheading all 12.
There are hundreds of similar stories.
So in March 2016, after nearly 18 months of silence, Kerry was forced by congressional mandate to acknowledge officially that ISIS is “responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.”
Kerry’s congressionally mandated decision does not obligate the United States to act to stop the genocide. Even so, the administration’s reticence has been disastrous because much of the U.S. media, including ABC, CBS and NBC, have played along in barely acknowledging the human rights disaster happening to Christians inside the so-called “Islamic State.”
The 1948 UN Convention on Genocide defined it as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” By that definition, there can be no question ISIS is committing genocide in Iraq and Syria, or that groups with allegiance to “The Islamic State” are committing it against Christians in a number of African countries, and in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
ISIS itself has repeatedly stated its intention to continue to “pronounce takfĩr [abandonment of Islam] upon the Jews, the Christians, the pagans, and the apostates,” and “continue to wage war” on them.
Elsewhere, a video from ISIS in Libya implores jihadists to “Fight and kill them from their Great Priest (Tawadros II) to the most pathetic one.’” It also commands them to “terrorize the Jews and burn the slaves of the Cross.”
In the February 2015 propaganda video ISIS released showing 21 Coptic Christians being beheaded on a Libyan beach, a spokesman addressed, “The nation of the Cross,” and vowed “We will conquer Rome!”
In March, the Knights of Columbus and the group In Defense of Christians released a massive report detailing the atrocities, desecrations and oppression. On March 18, 2016, the Christian Science Monitor reported, "More than 7,000 Christians were killed because of their faith last year, [evangelical group] Open Doors found, up from 4,344 in 2014 and 2,123 in 2013. But these numbers don't necessarily include the numbers from Iraq, Syria, or even North Korea, where accurate data are difficult to obtain, the group said."
The U.S. House of Representatives, the European Parliament, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the governments of Iraq and Kurdistan have accused ISIS of genocide.
The U.S. broadcast networks reported none of it. In fact, Kerry’s March 17, declaration merited just two sentences on ABC World News with David Muir. NBC’s Lester Holt gave it three. CBS didn’t even bother to report it. And none of the networks has used the term genocide since then.