U.S. State Department approved a resolution Monday that declares the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East — putting even more pressure on the Obama administration to do the same ahead of a deadline later this week.
The resolution passed the House with a unanimous vote of 383-0.
The resolution came to a vote just days after the release of a graphic new report by the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians on ISIS’ atrocities. The report made the case that the terror campaign against Christians and other minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East is, in fact, genocide.
“When ISIS systematically targets Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities for extermination, this is not only a grave injustice—it is a threat to civilization itself,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said in a statement. “We must call the violence by its proper name: genocide.”
The resolution was voted on ahead of a congressionally mandated March 17 deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House to make a decision on whether to make such a declaration. The measure is an effort to force the administration’s hand on the issue, as the administration has so far declined to take an official position.
There is a similar measure in the Senate that has yet to be voted on.
“Christians, Yezidis, and other beleaguered minority groups can find new hope in this trans-partisan and ecumenical alliance against ISIS’ barbaric onslaught,” Fortenberry, who is co-chairman of the Religious Minorities of the Middle East Caucus and represents America’s largest Yezidi community, said in the statement.
The measure also received the backing of House Republican leadership, with Speaker Paul Ryan calling on the Obama administration to take action in light of recent attacks against Christians.
“Last week, ISIS militants killed 16 people, including four Catholic nuns, at a retirement home in southern Yemen,” Ryan said in a statement Monday. “This is the latest in a string of brutal attacks committed by ISIS against Christian and other minorities. Yet the administration has still not called this what it is: A genocide.”
“We want to label what this is so this never happens and should not happen, and someone has to stand up,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Monday.
It is rare for Congress to make a genocide determination.
In addition to the genocide resolution, the House also voted on a measure to create an international tribunal to try those associated with atrocities by the Assad regime, ISIS and related groups.