Washington D.C. -
"Christians in Iraq and Syria have suffered
injustice after injustice by being
kidnapped, killed, having their homes and
churches confiscated or destroyed, and being
forced to flee for their lives," Carl
Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of
Columbus, said Feb. 25. "Because of hit
squads, they fear to enter U.N. refugee
camps and, as a result, are then often
excluded from immigration to the West."
He said that these Christians "deserve to
have the U.S. State Department call what has
happened to them by its rightful name:
By law, the State Department must choose how
to designate the atrocities by March 17,
according to the Knights of Columbus.
Official recognition of genocide would have
consequences for U.S. foreign policy,
including refugee resettlement policy.
The petition says, "America must end its
silence about the ongoing genocide against
Christians and other minority groups in Iraq
and Syria." It asks Kerry "to declare that
Christians, along with Yazidis and other
minorities, are targets of ongoing
As of Feb. 25, more than 26,000 people have
signed the petition online.
The petition is co-sponsored by In Defense
of Christians and the Knights of Columbus, a
Catholic fraternal organization. It is the
subject of a television ad that shows acts
of persecution by Islamic State militants.
"This is what Christian and other religious
minorities are facing at the hands of ISIS,"
the ad says. It continues: "the State
Department still hasn't labeled this
extermination what it is."
The ad cites presidential candidates Hillary
Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco
Rubio, who have said the persecution is
genocide. It also cites an opinion survey
that shows a majority of Americans agree.
Kirsten Evans, director of In Defense of
Christians, said the Islamic State's
treatment of Christians "meets even the
strictest definition of genocide under
international law, and must be treated as
such." She said this position has been
voiced by the International Association of
Genocide Scholars, over 200 members of
Congress, and over 70 human rights experts
Christians in the Middle East continue to be
The petition cites the
United Nations anti-genocide convention.
This defines genocide as acts "committed
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part,
a national, ethnical, racial or religious
The petition said there is "extensive and
irrefutable evidence" that the Islamic
State's mistreatment of Christians, Yazidis
and other vulnerable minorities meets the
definition of genocide.
The militant Islamist group's actions
include assassinations of church leaders,
mass murders and deportation, torture,
kidnapping for ransom, forced conversion,
sexual enslavement, and systematic rape. The
petition also notes the destruction of
Christian churches, monasteries, and
The petition cites the recent joint
statement between Pope Francis and Russian
Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The two
Christian leaders had said "whole families,
villages and cities of our brothers and
sisters in Christ are being completely
Prominent U.S. political leaders, the U.S.
Commission on Interreligious Freedom, the
European Parliament, and U.S. religious
leaders have said the Islamic State's
actions are genocide.
The first signers of the petition include
Catholic archbishops and bishops; lay
Catholic leaders such as Carl Anderson and
Alejandro Bermudez, director of Catholic
News Agency; university professors,
journalists, politicians and political
commentators; and leaders of Eastern and
evangelical Christian groups.
The Knights of Columbus in 2014 launched its
Christian Refugee Relief Fund. It has raised
more than $8 million to provide aid to
Christian and other refugees, especially
those from Iraq and Syria.
The Stop the Christian Genocide petition can
be found at