US decries ISIS 'genocide' of Christians

Phillip Cunningham
August 16, 2017

The United States issued its annual religious freedom report on Tuesday, slamming allies and foes alike for their shortcomings at a time when its own record has come under fire.

The Trump administration denounced the Islamic State group on Tuesday for carrying out "genocide" against Christians and other religious minorities in areas under its control. Tillerson adopted a much different tone in his opening remarks today, touting the defense of freedom overseas as an ethical and national security priority.

"Over 2,000 structures, including 600 crosses, had been destroyed or demolished by the end of the year", the report said. "As importantly, we promote religious freedom because countries that effectively safeguard this human right are more stable, economically vibrant and peaceful". Governments that stifle their peoples, the report said, breed "instability, terrorism and violence" that can easily cross borders in an increasingly connected world. The remarks were a hit on Capitol Hill, where many lawmakers have vowed to oppose the administration's proposed cuts to U.S. foreign aid.

"As we make progress in defeating ISIS and denying them their caliphate, their terrorist members have and continue to target multiple religions and ethnic groups for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and even death", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated at the August 15 release of the 2016 International Religious Freedom report. "It is important for America to be clear about the human rights abuses happening around the world", Sen.

But he laid out his most detailed indictment against Islamic State.

KELEMEN: She says the US needs to make sure that discrimination against Muslims and other religious minorities is not on the rise here at home.

"ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled", Tillerson wrote in the preface to the report. "[Islamic State] is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities", Tillerson added.

The religious freedom report, which is mandated by Congress, covers 2016. The report itself does not rank countries or have direct policy consequences, but provides data to help inform policymakers. Nor did the report take note of President Trump's proposal as a candidate to ban the entry of all Muslims into the United States, or his subsequent orders to bar the entry of refugees or citizens from seven (later reduced to six) predominantly Muslim countries. "It is not designed to pass judgment or to rank other countries, but rather to create a fact-based review for use in USA government decision-making".

And in Saudi Arabia, where religious freedom is not provided under the law, Shia Muslims encountered systematic discrimination in terms of access to public services and representation in government, educational and public sector jobs and in the courts.


"We remain concerned about the state of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia", Tillerson said.

The report also said that the government marginalises Ahmadiyya Muslims.

Tillerson singled out another Gulf Arab state, Bahrain, saying it "must stop discriminating against the Shia communities".

Tillerson said that in Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, "authorities continued to limit the human rights of members of some religious minority groups".

According to the report, the Turkish government continues to curtail the rights of non-Muslim minorities.

"Members of the Baha'i community are in prison today simply for abiding by their beliefs", in Iran, Tillerson said. "Religious persecution and intolerance remains far too prevalent", he said.

"ISIS is being defeated", Kozak said.

Chinese authorities harassed and imprisoned members of registered and unregistered religious groups, including members of unregistered Christian churches, or "house churches", for pursuing activities related to their religious beliefs and practices.

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