The legal definition of genocide is not restricted to genus: it is defined as the intent “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part..”
So, if what ISIS/Daesh is perpetrating throughout Iraq and Syria is not genocide, what is? If the systematic butchering of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities with the stated purpose of ‘cleansing’ them from the self-declared Islamic State is not genocide, what is? If the slavery of Yazidi women, the crucifixion of Christian men or the beheading of minority children is not genocide, what is?
This isn’t a political or religious game: there is no ‘competition’ to diminish what the Nazis did to the Jews. It is simply that when genocide is being committed, we have a moral obligation to call it so. US Secretary of State John Kerry says ISIS/Daesh is perpetrating genocide; the US House of Representatives calls it genocide; the Council of Europe calls it genocide; the EU Parliament calls it genocide. When 1.5 million Christians are whittled down to 260,000 in just over a decade, we observe the eradication of an entire human group. This is a crime, and this crime has a name: it is called ‘genocide’.
But not by HM Government.
Nor by the Church of England.
Today MPs debate whether what ISIS/Daesh is doing to Christians and other minorities should be called genocide. Fiona Bruce MP has tabled the motion, in the hope (and prayer) of drawing further attention to the appalling suffering of her Christian brothers and sisters; hoping (and praying) that the UN Security Council might be pressured into doing more to bring it to an end.
But Conservative MPs are being whipped to vote against the motion. Yes, whipped. It might only be 1-line, but it is still a whip. HM Government argues that it is not for Parliament to make a judgment about whether or not what ISIS/Daesh is doing is genocide: it is a matter for the courts. This makes sense, of course. But parliamentary votes are sometimes only symbolic, and that symbolism may reverberate around the world. One thinks of the 2014 vote to recognise the state of Palestine. A few politicians voting in Britain cannot and did not make Palestine a state, but the symbolism of solidarity had purpose and effect. There is nothing to stop MPs recognising ISIS/Daesh crimes as genocide and then using its position in the UN Security Council to table a resolution to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.
Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop in the United Kingdom of the Coptic Orthodox Church, says: “If the British Parliament recognises these violations as genocide, along with other parliamentary bodies around the world, this will allow an essential co-ordinated approach across the international community for the protection of the sanctity and dignity of God-given human life.”
The vote would have manifest moral purpose and righteous effect.
Of course, by acknowledging that what ISIS/Daesh is doing is genocide, we would be compelled to do something about it. But why shouldn’t we? If individual Conservative MPs are convicted in their consciences that this is genocide and something needs to be done about it, why should they not freely vote in support of Fiona Bruce’s motion? Why are their consciences being constrained by the whip? If the exercise of Conservative political authority is compromised to the extent that it may not bear witness to the truth of the systematic persecution and eradication of Christians, its authority is suspended, and its moral judgment and obligation are deaf to the divine command. They become genocide deniers.
Reason itself directs Conservative MPs to understand the rational righteousness if Fiona Bruce’s motion. They should stand before the burning bush, take off their shoes, and refuse to worship the whip.