Southern Baptists are committed to the religious freedom of all people. In 2011, the Southern Baptist Convention re-stated that, “religious liberty is an inalienable human right, rooted in the image of God, and possessed by all human beings.” When individuals are persecuted for their belief in Christ, Southern Baptists exemplify the life of Jesus by praying and advocating for justice of the oppressed (Luke 4:18).
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is leading a genocide against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. Over 470,000 Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims have been killed by members of ISIS. Over 9.3 million people in the region are internally displaced and 5 million seek refuge abroad. Targeting religious groups solely for their faith, according to international law, qualifies these massacres as genocide, evoking the most harsh punishments from the international community upon ISIS leaders.
Resources are scarce and time is running out for the families of genocide victims. With so many people to care for, on-the-ground humanitarian organizations do not have the necessary supplies to provide shelter, emergency health care, and food to all the families affected by the ISIS-led genocide. Food and medicine will be depleted in the fall of 2017 if swift and decisive action is not implemented. Tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis are at grave risk.
The Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act (HR 390) would ensure that NGOs receive the necessary aid to care for the victims of genocide. If passed, HR 390 would require senior human rights officials in the U.S. State Department to determine how much aid is needed to continue caring for the displaced peoples in Iraq and Syria, and which institutions could be the most effective at using that aid. This bill embodies the United States’ commitment to preserve religious freedom, and prevent and prosecute genocide wherever it occurs.
The United States has a moral obligation to care for the victims of genocide. After the United States ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1988, it bound itself to prevent the victims of genocide anywhere in the world, and to prosecute the perpetrators of genocide. HR 390 would be a declaration to the world that the victims of genocide– the wounded, the homeless, and the orphaned– will not be abandoned by the United States.