The unspeakable reality of Christian genocide
As chair of the governing committee of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) for nine years, I was knee-deep in international human migration reports delivered in person by the committee’s bishops and patriarchs.
Our common goal — mandated by Pope Pius XII, ICMC’s founder — was to analyze the continually shifting trends of the world’s 300 million migrants and strategize the Church’s humanitarian response to the most vulnerable migrants — those displaced by war, famine, natural disasters or human trafficking.
Beginning in 2013, the most heart-rending reports were those rendered by His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III, head of the Catholic Melkite-Greek Rite. Soon thereafter the patriarch’s concern began to center on the intervention of over 2,000 individual groups of foreign mercenaries reportedly financed primarily by Gulf States.
In 2014, I invited Patriarch Gregorios on a U.S. media tour to build awareness of the developing humanitarian tragedy. During our trip, he received the devastating news that several Syrian Christian men had been crucified. Tragically, this was the first of seemingly endless persecution from neighboring Iraq.
An unfettered Al-Qaeda, succeeded by ISIS, was beginning to amalgamate foreign mercenary groups and force the adherence of the vanquished majority to its fanatical tenets or face the sword. Christian fathers were forced to watch their small children beheaded, their wives and daughters raped and enslaved, before their own crucifixion. The lack of a cogent international effort to counter this violence resulted in the displacement of over half of Syria’s pre-war population of 24 million.
When five million Syrians initially fled to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt, there was little international outcry. But the stupor created by the arrival of an initial influx of over one million Syrians to Europe and the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, should have come as no surprise to the world media and politicians who had silently mirrored the Obama administration’s own obfuscation of terrorist realities.
Yet the story that continues to remain largely ignored is the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Christians who are suffering under Islamist fanaticism — not only in Syria and Iraq, but in Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan and elsewhere.
The recent recognition of Christian genocide by the European Union and U.S. Congress was undoubtedly spurred by ISIS bludgeoning to death four young Missionaries of Charity nuns on March 4 in Yemen and a lengthy Christian genocide report by the Knights of Columbus on March 17. Secretary of State John Kerry belatedly, but strongly, recognized that the fate of persecuted Christians is a crime against humanity.
In February, I participated in an international conference on Christian persecution under the auspices of the International Center on Law, Life, Faith and Family. Held at Ave Maria School of Law, the conference gathered legal experts and other professionals. Its goal was to create public awareness of persecuted Christians’ plight and to provide a blueprint for concrete legal action to bring international legal teeth to the perpetrators of genocidal persecution.
Providentially, Secretary Kerry’s “finding” concurs with the concrete steps that form the conclusions of the Ave Maria conference: Ultimately, the full facts must be brought to light by an independent investigation and through formal legal determination made by a competent court or tribunal. The United States will strongly support efforts to collect, document, preserve and analyze the evidence of atrocities — and we will do all we can to hold perpetrators accountable.
Three of the conference’s initiatives generated are noteworthy. First, Angelico Press will publish a book co-edited by law professors Ron Rychlak and Jane Adolphe detailing the legal issues within a greater historical context of Christian persecution. To date, no book deals as comprehensively with the legal issues pertaining to this topic. Second, Ave Maria School of Law has agreed to work on a proposal I drafted with attorney Roger Kiska and Jane Adolphe to establish a permanent Center for the Protection of Persecuted Christians from which it can provide international legal expertise to document and bring crimes against humanity to prosecution. Third, our committee is preparing an international instrument on freedom of religion that we will submit to certain United Nations member states for eventual sponsorship within the U.N. forum. While this initiative may never result in a binding document, we hope it will provoke considerable debate and bring the plight of Christians to the foreground. The millions of Christians who, like the Holy Family, are forced to flee for their lives in the middle of the night to escape an evil tyrant, deserve no less.
JOHN KLINK is the president emeritus of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) and a member of Legatus’ Santa Barbara Chapter.