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Knights of Columbus report: ISIS committing Christian ‘genocide’

A volunteer from the Yazidi sect who has joined the Kurdish peshmerga forces walks with his weapon in the town of Sinjar, Iraq, on Nov. 16, 2015. Before it was overrun by the Islamic State group, Sinjar and the surrounding villages were home to about 200,000 people, mainly Kurdish and Arab Muslims -- both Sunni and Shiite -- as well as Christians and Yazidis, a faith that combines elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Now the town is largely deserted. But in a row of houses used by Islamic State fighters, there were signs of recent occupation: a smell of rotting food, and foam mattresses and pillows laid on the floor. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MIDEAST-CHRISTIANS, originally transmitted on March 10, 2016.
A volunteer from the Yazidi sect who have joined the Kurdish peshmerga forces walks with his weapon in the town of Sinjar, Iraq on November 16, 2015. Before it was overrun by Islamic State, Sinjar and the surrounding villages were home to about 200,000 people, mainly Kurdish and Arab Muslims - both Sunni and Shi'ite - as well as Christians and Yazidis, a faith that combines elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Now the town is largely deserted. But in a row of houses used by Islamic State fighters, there were signs of recent occupation: a smell of rotting food, and foam mattresses and pillows laid on the floor. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Azad Lashkari *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MIDEAST-CHRISTIANS, originally transmitted on March 10, 2016.

A volunteer from the Yazidi sect who has joined the Kurdish peshmerga forces walks with his weapon in the town of Sinjar, Iraq, on Nov. 16, 2015. Before it was overrun by the Islamic State group, Sinjar and the surrounding villages were home to about 200,000 people, mainly Kurdish and Arab Muslims — both Sunni and Shiite — as well as Christians and Yazidis, a faith that combines elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Now the town is largely deserted. But in a row of houses used by Islamic State fighters, there were signs of recent occupation: a smell of rotting food, and foam mattresses and pillows on the floor. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MIDEAST-CHRISTIANS, originally transmitted on March 10, 2016.

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Knights of Columbus has issued a 280-page report declaring that the Islamic State group is committing “genocide” against Christians and other religious groups in the Middle East and urging the U.S. State Department to use that term to describe its actions.

Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson said his Catholic fraternal organization, working in partnership with the group In Defense of Christians, does not contend Christians alone are facing genocide from the group known as ISIS but it believes the State Department must include them.

“The United States government should not exclude Christians from such a finding,” he said at a news conference Thursday (March 10). “Doing so simply would be contrary to the facts.”


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At the request of senior State Department officials, the Knights of Columbus issued the report detailing how Christians have been the victims of killings, kidnappings, rapes and destruction of religious property. It included a list of 1,131 Christians killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2014, and 125 churches attacked there in the same period.

Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, joined Anderson on a panel of experts supporting the findings of the report and the use of the word “genocide.”

Nina Shea, a religious freedom expert at the Hudson Institute, joined a panel of experts supporting the findings of the “Genocide against Christians in the Middle East” report on March 10, 2016 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Nina Shea, a religious freedom expert at the Hudson Institute, joined a panel of experts supporting the findings of the “Genocide against Christians in the Middle East” report on March 10, 2016 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

“The truth is, the word’s moral force is the reason for this word to be used,” said Stanton, the former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

Nina Shea, a religious freedom expert at the Hudson Institute, called the report the “largest compilation in existence of what has happened to Christians in the path of ISIS.”

In response to a question from RNS, a State Department official, who was not authorized to be identified by name, said, “Regardless of whether Da’esh’s conduct satisfies certain legal definitions, including genocide and crimes against humanity, the United States has been clear that our interest in accountability for perpetrators remains undiminished.”

(Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national reporter for RNS)

This story is available for republication.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

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