The Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians are pressing the State Department for a formal declaration.

Share story

WASHINGTON — The State Department has until March 17 to decide whether the violent campaign being waged by the Islamic State group against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East meets the requirements for being labeled genocide.

Two Christian organizations, the Knights of Columbus fraternal organization and In Defense of Christians advocacy group, held a news conference Thursday to urge the State Department to use that label. They shared a bound booklet of examples of atrocities against Christians by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. They earlier sent the booklet to Secretary of State John Kerry.

“There is only one word that adequately, and legally, describes what is happening to Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East: That word is ‘genocide,’ ” Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, said at the news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

The groups’ booklet quoted Kerry addressing the topic on Aug. 7, 2014: “ISIL’s campaign of terror against the innocent, including Yazidi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

But in the 19 months that followed, the State Department and the Obama administration avoided using “genocide.”

The U.N.’s definition of genocide is any act committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part, from Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

In early February, the European Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing the systematic persecution by the Islamic State group as genocide, saying the group’s behavior fits the U.N. definition.