GENOCIDE IN THE MIDDLE EAST; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 40
(House of Representatives - March 14, 2016)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages H1328-H1336]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                      GENOCIDE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. LaHood). Under the Speaker's announced 
policy of January 6, 2015, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. 
Fortenberry) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the 
majority leader.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. Mr. Speaker, we are living in a time of great 
political difficulty. That is not a secret to anyone.
  Just moments ago the House of Representatives did something 
essential. We came together not in a bipartisan fashion, but in a 
trans-partisan fashion, rising above the petty difficulties that we 
seemingly cannot ever resolve, and spoke to the heart of something that 
is essential for all of humanity. We declared together what is 
happening in the Middle East to Christians, Yazidis, and others to be 
  I am extraordinarily proud of this body for speaking clearly, for 
speaking factually, and for speaking about this grave injustice that is 
happening to so many ancient faith traditions.
  This is a grave injustice, and it is an assault to human dignity. 
This grave injustice is a threat to civilization itself when one group 
of persons, namely, ISIS, can systematically target another group of 
persons because of their faith.
  That destroys the very basis for international order, tranquility 
among people, and for civilization itself. That is why what we did 
tonight in speaking so clearly and rising above differences in a 
unanimous fashion is so extraordinary.
  I owe an extreme debt of gratitude to my colleague, Anna Eshoo from 
California. Anna has been a stalwart leader in this effort. Her own 
ethnic background is Chaldean. She has an intimate familiarity with the 
Middle East and the suffering of this group of people.
  Anna has led Congress on her side of the aisle and my side of the 
aisle, in partnership with me, to continue to try to confront the 
scandal of silence, the indifference toward what is happening to these 
ancient faith traditions that have as much a right to be in their 
ancestral homeland as anyone else.
  In June of 2014, in the Iraqi city of Mosul, there was an eerie 
silence one morning. For the first time in two millennia, the church 
bells didn't ring.
  Mosul is one of those diverse cities in the Middle East. It had a 
rich tapestry, a vibrancy of various faith traditions: Christians, 
Yazidis, Muslims.
  There were differences of religious perspectives, sometimes tension, 
but they found a way to continue to contribute an interdependency 
toward the well-being of that community.

  They were invaded by eighth century barbarians with 21st century 

[[Page H1329]]

ISIS. The Christians who were there were told to leave, convert, or die 
by the sword.
  Many fled with just what was on their back. The remaining Christians 
in the homes had this painted on their door. This is the Arabic symbol 
for the letter N.
  It stands for Nazarene, which is a derogatory term used by some in 
the Middle East to describe the Christians. This was painted on their 
door as a sign that it was time for them to go or they would die, 
except it wasn't painted in nice gold like this. It was painted blood 
  We have so many tragedies and difficulties facing humanity, we can 
sometimes become numb to the violence that is happening in so many 
places in the world because it is overwhelming.
  But when you have one group of people who has extreme disregard for 
that sacred space of humanity, for that sacred space of conscience and 
individual rights that are expressed in religious freedom, you not only 
have a threat to a group of people far away, but you have a threat to 
the underpinnings of civilization itself.
  I happened to be in the room when Pope Francis was given a small 
Christian cross, a crucifix. This cross had belonged to a young Syrian 
man. He had been captured by the jihadists.
  He was told: Convert or die. So he chose. He chose his ancient faith 
tradition. He chose Christ. He was beheaded. His mother was somehow 
able to recover his body and this cross and bury him. She fled and came 
to Austria. Through this means, the small cross came into the 
possession of the Holy Father.
  This is not an isolated story. It has happened over and over and over 
again, as persons who were denied their life or denied the very 
conditions for life and they had to flee. This is called genocide.
  The International Association of Genocide Scholars, the prestigious 
academic body, has labeled this genocide. Genocide Watch has called 
this genocide. The Yazidi international community has labeled this a 
genocide. Pope Francis has said so. Presidential candidates on both 
sides of the aisle have said so. Now the House of Representatives has 
declared it so as well.
  I live in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I am privileged to represent the 
largest Yazidi community in America. It is not a community that I have 
gotten to know just recently because of all the difficulties that they 
have had. We have worked with them for many, many years.
  Many of these Yazidi families were translators for the United States 
Army during the height of the Iraq war. Because of that, this body, by 
law, gave them special citizenship options to live here in America, and 
many settled in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  About a year and a half ago, a number of young men in the Yazidi 
community came to see me. They were on the verge of tears.
  They spoke passionately, even angrily--and I don't blame them for 
being angry--Congressman, do something. Our mothers, our sisters, our 
families, are trapped in Sinjar and ISIS is coming for them. We don't 
have the capacity to stop them. Help us. You are the only ones who can. 
Help us. Please, do something. There is no more time.
  The Yazidi community also took its case to Washington. Around the 
same time a resolution that was led by my good friend, Congressman 
Vargas, who will speak momentarily, and passed by us in the House of 
Representatives, which called for international humanitarian assistance 
in northern Iraq for the besieged people, laid some of the groundwork, 
which was a very prudential decision--and I commend President Obama for 
it--to stopping what was certain to be a slaughter on Mount Sinjar, 
saving the remnants of the Yazidi people who were still there.
  So today we, as a body, are calling upon the international community 
as well as the fullness of our own government to act and to call this 
  This is one of those Yazidi translators. His name is Omar. Again, he 
gained his citizenship because he was so sacrificially helpful to us 
during the height of the Iraq war. He has lost 36 family members of the 
Yazidi community to the violence.
  He recently went back to the liberated areas of Sinjar and saw the 
bombed remains of the ancient Christian church here. He took it upon 
himself--a Yazidi man that does not share the Christian tradition--to 
put a makeshift cross over the site where the Christians previously 
  Why is this genocide designation important? It is just to Omar and 
his family. It is just to the Christians who died or had to flee. It is 
just to the other people who are under severe persecution. By the way, 
I should note that the people who have been killed the most by ISIL are 
innocent Muslims.
  The genocide declaration, though, declares that there is a systematic 
attempt to exterminate this ancient faith tradition of the Christians, 
Yazidis, and others.
  What it means is we are helping set the preconditions, if you will, 
for when there is, hopefully, a real security settlement in northern 
Iraq and in Syria and in other places and that the Christians, Yazidis, 
and others are fully integrated back into their ancient homeland and 
given fullness of rights as citizens, given fullness of protection and 
process, full integration into their own governance structures.

                              {time}  1930

  By raising this banner tonight, I think we have done something good. 
It is a word, but it is a powerful word.
  In 2004, Colin Powell, then-Secretary of State, came to the Senate 
Foreign Relations Committee, and he declared there what was happening 
in Darfur to be a genocide. In doing so, it helped put an end to that 
grim reality.
  So today the House has spoken, and I am proud that we have done so in 
a transpartisan manner, with unanimity. What I hope this does is, 
again, elevate international consciousness, calling upon the 
responsible communities of the world to seek out constructive, creative 
ways to help stop the violence, to help stop the persecution, to push 
for the right type of security arrangements that will restore what was 
once the rich tapestry of diversity of perspectives and beliefs in the 
Middle East.
  Without that, I have little hope. But with this, and the return of 
persons like Omar and others who respect differences, who have true 
friendships, who are willing to sacrifice for their deep beliefs, these 
are the nobility of values that the ancient traditions can bring back 
to their shattered homeland; and that is why it is so important that we 
acted today.
  Mr. Speaker, let me turn to, again, my good friend from California 
(Ms. Eshoo), who has worked tirelessly on this resolution and wants to 
share her thoughts as well tonight.
  Ms. ESHOO. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the gentleman from 
Nebraska, the very distinguished Mr. Fortenberry. I thank him for his 
words and for his magnificent remarks here on the floor this evening. 
We obviously share the same sentiments.
  I think if anyone is tuned in this evening for what we call a Special 
Order, the Congress is not really held in great regard today, but there 
is on a day-to-day basis for so many of us a discovery of deep 
friendship that is created, that comes about because we work so closely 
together on something that binds us, where we have not only common 
ground, but the deep, deep values of our country that are embedded in 
us and everyone here, people across the country, and that we get to 
work on it together.
  Congressman Fortenberry is my brother, and I thank him. I thank him 
from the bottom of my heart for the values that he has expressed, the 
work that he has put into this, and what it means to the people that we 
are speaking for.
  This resolution expresses the sense of the Congress that the 
atrocities that are being perpetrated by ISIS, they constitute war 
crimes, and they are genocide against religious and ethnic minorities 
in Iraq and Syria and throughout the region.
  Now, over the past decade we have really witnessed an acceleration. 
It started when there was the invasion of Iraq, but it has heightened 
as the years have gone on. And now the assault on Christians and other 
religious minorities, particularly by ISIS, has moved to a level of 
barbarism that we read about in the history books, and is taking place, 
imagine, in the 21st century.
  It has included the torture and the murder of thousands, the 

[[Page H1330]]

of millions, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Armenians, 
Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka`e, Amalekites, and the Yazidis that Mr. 
Fortenberry has spoken to and represents so magnificently. These are 
families that are being torn apart, fathers and sons being executed, 
mothers and daughters being enslaved and raped.
  The USA Today columnist, Kirsten Powers, painted a very vivid picture 
when she wrote in December of last year:

       In October, Islamic State militants in Syria demanded that 
     two Christian women and six men convert to Islam. When they 
     refused, the women were publicly raped, and then beheaded 
     along with the men. On the same day, militants cut off the 
     fingertips of a 12-year old boy in an attempt to force his 
     Christian father to convert. When his father refused, they 
     were brutalized and they were both crucified.

  Today, there are fewer than 500 Christians remaining in Iraq, down 
from as many as 1.5 million in 2003.
  Now, the United Nations has written, come up with a definition some 
time ago of what genocide actually is:

       Any of the following acts committed with an 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; imposing measures intended to prevent 
     births within the group; and forcibly transferring children 
     of the group to another group.

  This is genocide, and this is what is actually taking place today. 
Despite the persecution of these hundreds of thousands of religious 
minorities, the United States has not spoken out; but tonight the 
United States House of Representatives has. And this is a seminal 
moment for the House to have taken this on and to express unanimously 
that this is genocide.
  There are many things that we have worked on together, as members of, 
and other members as well, of the House Religious Minority Caucus; 
humanitarian aid, protection, faster refugee processing for these 
vulnerable communities, and an official statement by the Congress. 
Tonight that happened. We have labeled these atrocities for what they 
are, genocide.
  I think that Congressman Fortenberry has stated in a most eloquent 
way why this is important.
  First of all, this is one of the great values of our country, one of 
the great, great values of our country, where we recognize religions of 
people of all religious backgrounds.
  Our Constitution, in just a few words, in just a few words, I 
believe, has prevented bloodshed, whereas in other places, it takes 
  It is as deeply meaningful to me as a first-generation American, the 
only Member of the entire Congress that is of Assyrian and Armenian 
descent. This is a repeat of history of my family. It is why I am a 
first-generation American, because my grandparents fled, both sides of 
my family, the Armenian side and the Assyrian side, for this very 
reason, because they were being hunted down and persecuted because they 
were Christians.

  We know that a century ago the world witnessed--but the House and the 
Congress is still silent on this, and we have to address that, too--
when the Ottoman Empire rounded up and murdered Armenians, Greeks, and 
other minorities in Constantinople. By 1923, there were some 1.5 
million women, children, and men who were lost. It was a systematic 
campaign that we now know as and call the Armenian Genocide.
  So for those in my family who told the stories, my grandparents, my 
parents, this is, for me, a bittersweet evening. But I think that they 
are all proud, those who have been called to God, and those who are 
still with us, that the United States House of Representatives is 
calling this out for what it is.
  It matters when the United States speaks. Our voices collectively, 
this evening, are going to echo around the world; and the stability, as 
Congressman Fortenberry spoke to, of these minority communities, have 
really been the glue that have held these ancient communities together 
for so long.
  I, too, share the hope and pray for the day that there will be peace 
in the region and that they will be recognized and honored in their 
communities, on the lands, these ancient lands, with their ancient 
faiths. I think that is the collective hope of all of us. The stability 
and, I think, the cultural identity of the Middle East depends on this.
  The United States has always championed human rights, basic human 
rights, and civil and religious liberties, both at home and abroad. 
Whenever we go abroad, those are the issues that we raise with whomever 
we are meeting with. I think that these are our most cherished values 
and, I think, America's greatest export.
  During his trip to South America in July of 2015, Pope Francis called 
for an end to this genocide of Christians in the Middle East, saying, 
``In this third world war which we are now experiencing, a form of 
genocide is taking place, and it must end.''
  I think his voice spoke, obviously, for the voiceless.
  Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox 
Church of Chicago, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal the 
  ``It may seem like we in the United States have little ability to 
change conditions in the Middle East and elsewhere. But that outlook 
has too often led to inaction and great regret after crimes against 
humanity have been allowed to unfold without intervention. The United 
States and other members of the U.N. made a solemn vow in 2005 with the 
passage of the Responsibility to Protect, a response to crimes against 
humanity. With genocide occurring before our very eyes, we must 
properly identify the crimes and honor our international commitment 
under the Responsibility to Protect.''
  So, Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, with the words of Pope Francis, 
Bishop Demetrios, countless advocates across our country and around the 
world, and the 203 bipartisan cosponsors of this resolution, and the 
voice of the entire House, unanimous vote this evening of this 
resolution, I am very proud.
  I am very proud and I am lastingly grateful to be a part of this body 
that has spoken as one on this issue of enormous import and morality 
because we, tonight, have let it be known to the world that this is, in 
fact, the horror of genocide that is taking place in the Middle East.
  Again, it is a moment of great pride to me, certainly to my family 
and to people, not only my own people, but to those across the United 
States, the religious leaders of all faiths that have spoken out.
  This tonight, the evening of March 14, 2016, will live on and 
historians will record that we indeed did the right thing.
  So I thank you all.

                              {time}  1945

  Historians will record that we indeed did the right thing. So I thank 
you all.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. I thank the gentlewoman for your impactful, 
important, heartfelt, and beautiful words of sympathy and compassion, 
but also for your action.
  What you said, particularly regarding not only respecting the ancient 
faith traditions, but honoring them in their native lands, ought to be 
what we are all striving for. So I thank you for your beautiful 
  Now I would like to turn to my friend and colleague, Congressman 
Trent Franks, a Congressman from Arizona who, again, has been a 
stalwart leader on all types of assaults to human dignity as they 
manifest themselves in so many difficult ways across the spectrum of 
life. So I am grateful for your friendship and for your leadership as 
  Mr. FRANKS of Arizona. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman. I thank 
Congressman Fortenberry especially for his leadership and courage on 
this issue. I thank Congresswoman Eshoo not only for her personal 
courage, but just for the perspective that she brings to this House 
given her ancestors and the family history that she has with some of 
the challenges that are so parallel to what we are talking about 
  Mr. Speaker, I believe the United States of America has been the 
greatest national force for good the world has ever known. Our Nation 
has made sacrifices to the extreme to extinguish some of the worst 
evils that have plagued humanity across the decades. I am honored to 
stand here with my colleagues who have led this fight to call the 
Islamic States' insidious campaign

[[Page H1331]]

of terror against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious communities 
what it is: genocide.
  For months, noble organizations like the Knights of Columbus and 
countless valiant individuals have worked tirelessly to document 
evidence of genocide against ancient faith communities in Iraq and 
Syria. Hundreds of pages containing accounts of massacres, unimaginable 
brutality, and uncovered mass graves have been delivered to world 
leaders, including the Obama administration, in an effort to condemn 
ISIS violence as the genocide that it most certainly is.
  Recognition of genocide with the passage of H. Con. Res. 75 is due in 
large part to the conviction and commitment of these organizations and 
individuals--and for that humanity owes them great and profound 
gratitude. Yet today, despite all of the overwhelming evidence, this 
administration remains stunningly silent.
  Mr. Speaker, I am reminded of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 
German Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi dissident, who said: ``Silence in 
the face of evil is evil itself: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to 
speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.''
  Mr. Speaker, we are now witness to some of the most glaring and 
brutal attacks against the universal human right of religious freedom 
in history. ISIS has been the very face of evil. We have seen hundreds 
of thousands of civilians flee the land of their spiritual heritage. We 
have seen mass executions and beheadings. We have seen the destruction 
of ancient places of worship and sacred sites. We have seen women and 
children assaulted and sold as commodities in a modern-day slave 
market--sometimes little girls for as little as 50 cents.
  We have seen the Islamic State desecrate, violate, humiliate, and 
strip innocent men, women, and children of their God-given human 
dignity. And why? Because there is no place for Christians, Yazidis, 
and other religious communities in the Islamic State's self-proclaimed 
caliphate. The message of this metastasizing cancer is clear: those who 
do not conform to their abhorrent ideology will be destroyed.
  Mr. Speaker, this administration has been fully aware that 
Christians, Yazidis, and other religious communities have been 
subjected to the most extreme kind of brutality and barbaric attacks. 
The Islamic State has publicly declared their intent to annihilate 
those who do not submit to their caliphate, stating, ``it will continue 
to wage war against the apostates until they repent from apostasy. It 
will continue to wage war against the pagans until they accept Islam.'' 
Mr. Speaker, justice demands that this be condemned as genocide.
  Today, the cries of the innocent should compel us to act. Refusal to 
acknowledge and specifically name Christians, Yazidis, and other 
religious communities in a designation of genocide would be one of the 
more disgraceful chapters in the Obama administration's shameful and 
abhorrent response to the insidious evil of the Islamic State.
  The conspicuous silence of this administration and its failure to act 
decisively not only has the gravest of implications for thousands of 
innocent fellow human beings, but it also sends a message to the world 
that the United States of America, which has long served as an impetus 
for freedom and justice, has either lost the moral conviction to defend 
the lives of the innocent or the political will to crush the evil that 
desecrates them.
  Not to speak is to speak, Mr. Speaker. Not to act is to act, Mr. 
Speaker. And the world is watching what we will--or, shamefully, will 
not--say or do.
  Mr. Speaker, I would adjure the President of the United States and 
Secretary Kerry not to callously continue to stand by in silence and 
let this evil relentlessly proceed.
  With that, I thank the gentleman.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. I thank my friend, Congressman Franks of Arizona, 
for his powerful statement. Not to speak is to speak. Of all people in 
the body, I think that is a marked tribute to the Congressman who has 
worked tirelessly and spoken out on behalf of the protection of 
innocent persons.
  Now I want to turn to my good friend, Congressman Juan Vargas from 
California, who as well has helped in an extraordinary way to further 
not only this cause, but, again, trying to elevate the nobility of the 
ideal that we should all be united in mind, heart, and spirit if we are 
going to be persons who respect the rules of law, the standards for 
international order, or, more basically, our need for one another.

  I am so grateful for your willingness to speak out on a whole host of 
issues, and thank you for coming tonight, Congressman Vargas.
  Mr. VARGAS. Thank you, very much, Congressman Fortenberry, and also 
Anna Eshoo for your courage to come forward and for your words today 
and for your powerful words that you gave a moment ago to call genocide 
what it is: genocide, what we are seeing with Christians in particular, 
Yazidis, and others. So, again, thank you very much for allowing me to 
speak today.
  I would also like to congratulate both of you on the passage of H. 
Con. Res. 75, which expresses the sense of Congress that the atrocities 
perpetrated by ISIS against religious and ethnic minorities are indeed, 
as I said, genocide, crimes against humanity. I sincerely hope that the 
Obama administration will see the bipartisan show of support for this 
timely resolution as an impetus to clearly and forthrightly declare 
these acts genocide, because that is what they are. So I am hoping that 
they take action.
  Around the world, political and religious leaders have spoken out to 
condemn ISIS' acts of raping, kidnapping, torturing, and killing of 
Christians, Yazidis, Shias, Turkmens, and other religious minorities.
  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the European Parliament, the 
Kurdistan Regional Government, and His Holiness, Pope Francis have 
called these actions by their proper name: genocide--genocide.
  I would like to echo the words of Pope Francis, who eloquently 
stated: ``Our brothers are being persecuted, chased away, they are 
forced to leave their homes without being able to take anything with 
them. I assure these families that I am close to them and in constant 
prayer. I know how much you are suffering; I know that you are being 
stripped of everything.''
  It has almost been 2 years since the fall of Mosul, when ISIS warned 
religious minorities living under its jurisdiction to either convert to 
Islam, pay a cumbersome religious tax, or be executed. I won't go 
through all the atrocious acts that they have committed. I think that 
they were spoken of already here in a very dramatic way. Again, they 
did what they said they were going to do; and that is ISIS said that, 
if you didn't leave, if you didn't convert, you would be executed. That 
is, in fact, what they have done in the most horrific way.
  We have to act. It is time for us to act. I believe that this mass 
exodus represents the largest forced displacement in the Middle East 
since the Armenian genocide in Turkey 100 years ago.
  A genocide, known as the crime of crimes, has both legal and moral 
implications under both Federal and international law. This means that 
if a genocide is declared, it will demand American leadership and 
resources to prevent and punish the ongoing assault of Christians, 
Yazidis, and other religious minorities that are targeted for 
  While I applaud the various actions and commitments the Obama 
administration has made to alleviate the suffering of thousands of 
victims of ISIS, I strongly and firmly believe we can, we should, and 
we must do more.
  History is full of examples of leaders who opposed these mass 
atrocities in abstraction but similarly opposed any action in the 
moment. I call on President Obama and Secretary Kerry to take the first 
step in firmly calling this egregious situation a genocide. It is past 
time to speak the truth to power and not to mince any words, and we 
shouldn't mince any words.
  Lastly, I would say this. This has been a bipartisan effort. I did 
have the opportunity to travel to Erbil with Congress Members Darrell 
Issa and John Mica. We were able to talk to victims there of this 
horrific genocide, and we were able to talk to the Kurds who were, in 
fact, helping dramatically, many of them losing their own lives because 
they wanted to protect Christians and Yazidis.

[[Page H1332]]

  We have to do more. Unfortunately, we probably won't get much 
information. Maybe if I went over and punched my good friend Jeff--out 
of love, of course, brother--maybe we could get some attention to this 
matter. But we have to shout out, and we have to get the attention of 
the administration. We have to do something. We have to do something 
because this is genocide, and we just can't sit idly by.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. I want to thank my good friend, Congressman Vargas, 
for your impactful words. If it does take your coming over here to 
punch me, come on, let's go, because that is worth it.
  I want to also reiterate something I mentioned earlier. It was your 
resolution that called for an international humanitarian intervention 
that I feel created the environment, the condition, which was 
empowering to the Obama administration to intervene on behalf of the 
Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar. That is an overlooked fact and 
consideration around here. But I am glad to say it, and I want to thank 
you for calling as well, urging the administration to act in this 
regard. You have the moral authority to do so.
  I know Secretary Kerry has sympathies in this regard, but just like 
the Yazidis when they were trapped on the mountain, to wait in the face 
of clear facts is to potentially not only lose time, but to lose lives 
and lose the option for, again, setting the preconditions for 
reintegration of these ancient faith traditions back into their 
ancestral homelands. So I thank you for your good words.
  Now I want to turn to my good friend Congressman Sean Duffy from 
Wisconsin, an outspoken man of the House who has not been afraid to 
confront, as well, the various problems facing humanity and the 
assaults on human dignity as they have manifested themselves and 
fractured our society and so many others in so many ways. So I thank 
you, Congressman Duffy.
  Mr. DUFFY. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's yielding, and I 
am grateful for all of your work, Congressman Fortenberry, Congressman 
Vargas, and Congresswoman Eshoo.
  Sometimes people look at this House and think that all we do is fight 
and disagree. I am not going to talk about you two punching each other 
to get a little more press, but it is a remarkable night when we all 
come together and stand together on such an important issue as this, 
where we all lend our voices to an incredibly important cause.

  We spent a lot of time tonight talking about the atrocities, and I am 
going to join in because we can't say enough all that has happened.
  Two million Christians called Iraq home prior to 2013. Fewer than 
300,000 reside there today. Many were victims of killing or 
kidnappings, others forced to leave their homes by radicals, al Qaeda 
or ISIS.
  In Syria, Christians accounted for 10 percent of the population, but 
today their numbers have declined to less than 1 million. Last summer, 
ISIS kidnapped nearly 300 Christians in a Syrian village and then later 
ransomed them back to their families for an average of $100,000 per 
  When ISIS invaded Mosul, Iraq, in 2013, as Mr. Fortenberry mentioned, 
they tagged Christian homes with an N for Nazarene, and then they gave 
the occupants a choice: you can convert, you can flee, or you would 
face death. In July of 2014, ISIS announced that the city, no doubt, 
was Christian-free--no surprise.
  In 2014, August, a woman from Bartella, Iraq, recounted the night 
that ISIS came into her village and then into her home and accused her 
of putting gold coins in her 11-month-old baby's diaper. So they took 
her baby, threw her baby on the couch, beat her baby, and threw her up 
against the wall. Eventually, they let her leave, but they kept her 
husband and made him convert.
  In February of 2015, ISIS slaughtered 21 Coptic Christians on a 
Libyan beach, pointing them towards Rome, and proclaimed this message: 
``Signed with blood to the nation of the cross.''
  In March of 2016, this month, four nuns, members of the Missionaries 
of Charity, founded by the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, were 
executed by gunmen in Yemen.

                              {time}  2000

  Their crime? They were caring for the elderly and the disabled. Pope 
Francis called them today's martyrs.
  Just yesterday gunmen stormed three hotels on the Ivory Coast. Among 
the 18 people who were killed was a 5-year-old boy--a 5-year-old boy--
who was shot in the head. But eyewitnesses report that the friend who 
was with him was spared his life because he was able to recite a Muslim 
  Mr. Speaker, these are hardly isolated incidents. As we have talked 
about tonight, this is genocide. The Knights of Columbus submitted a 
280-page report chronicling the persecution of Christians by the 
Islamic State to the State Department this week.
  The leader of ISIS recently released a video that made very clear 
their intent to destroy Christians throughout whatever means possible. 
He said:

       The co-existence of Christians and Jews is impossible, 
     according to the Koran.

  I don't think we have to scratch our heads and ask ourselves what is 
happening in Iraq and Syria. Pope Francis recently condemned the 
wholesale slaughter of Christians by ISIS, saying that entire Christian 
families and villages are being completely exterminated.
  I look at this House tonight and I am proud that we have so many men 
and women who are willing to stand up and lend their voice to this 
great cause.
  We have a reputation in America as being a beacon of light, men and 
women who stand up for freedom, better known as freedom fighters, 
freedom of life, freedom of religion.
  When there are atrocities in the world, we stand up and lend a voice 
to those who are being persecuted, those who are downtrodden.
  I am disappointed that the President has been unwilling to join this 
House and call the atrocities in Syria and Iraq a genocide. The first 
step to making sure this ends is that we speak the truth about what is 
actually happening.
  Hopefully, if the President is watching tonight, he will see that we 
have both Republicans and Democrats who agree on this very important 
issue. Hopefully, he will join us and take that first step to shedding 
light on what is happening in Iraq and Syria.
  Mr. Fortenberry, I commend you for your good efforts on this very 
important issue. I am proud to stand with you and the rest of this 
Chamber to make sure those who might not know that people care about 
them as they are going through pain and anguish--we hear about the sex 
slaves, young little girls who are held captive, little Christian and 
Yazidi girls--that they know that people hear them, people care about 
them, and people are doing here in America all we can to help them out 
of this crisis. Thank you for your work.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. Thank you for your powerful words, Congressman 
Duffy. The report that you mentioned is right here. Again, it is a 280-
page report submitted to the State Department just recently.
  The cover shows that moment where these Coptic Christians from Egypt, 
who are guilty only of the crime of going to Libya to try to work and 
earn enough money to sustain their families, were captured by ISIS and 
then beheaded.
  This report lays out the facts. It is not the opinion of the House of 
Representatives. It is not my opinion or yours. The fact is that this 
is a genocide.
  I am grateful not only to the Knights of Columbus and the 
organization called In Defense of Christians for producing this, but it 
basically is a thorough documentation of what has happened that adds 
further credibility to what we already know and so many people around 
the world have called genocide.
  Thank you very much.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Black), 
my good friend.
  Thank you for being here tonight.
  Mrs. BLACK. I thank you, Mr. Fortenberry, for bringing us together to 
talk about a most serious topic, one that goes to our heart and makes 
us so sad for what is happening to these remarkable people who stand up 
for their faith.
  Mr. Speaker, just today the Associated Press reported that President 
Obama would likely miss the March 17 deadline established by Congress 
for his administration to determine whether or not ISIS has committed 

[[Page H1333]]

  This is unfathomable. How long does it take for this President to 
call a spade a spade and declare what Americans already know to be 
  This isn't hard. ISIS is evil. They have engaged in systematic 
persecution and mass killing of Christians and other religious and 
ethnic minorities throughout the Middle East.
  The United States has a moral responsibility to lead in the fight 
against ISIS, but we can't defeat a threat that we refuse to 
acknowledge exists.
  I am proud to participate in tonight's Special Order and to support 
Congressman Fortenberry's resolution because we need to go on Record 
and declare the belief of crisis that ISIS has without a doubt 
committed genocide and must be dealt with accordingly.
  Mr. Speaker, we in the United States cannot turn a blind eye when our 
brothers and sisters around the world are murdered, tortured, and 
kidnapped for their faith.
  It is long past time to dispense with this hyper-political 
correctness and to call these heinous acts by their true name. These 
are crimes against humanity. Stopping the violence starts with 
acknowledging this truth.
  I thank Congressman Fortenberry for his leadership on this much-
needed resolution.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. Thank you, Congresswoman Black, for your leadership 
not only on this issue, but so many others.
  We often are in very important economic debates, debates about 
finances and debates about roads. Not often enough, perhaps, do we go 
to the core of the reason for which exists a country and its laws, 
namely, to protect human dignity. I want to thank you for your 
leadership in this regard. Thank you so much.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. 
Rothfus), my good friend, for his good words.
  Let me again thank you for your leadership. Your consistency and the 
continuity in which you apply your principles is very noble and 
uplifting to me.
  Mr. ROTHFUS. I want to thank my friend, Congressman Fortenberry, for 
the steadfast witness that you have given to this cause and other 
causes of human dignity and to call us together again after this 
historic House vote today where the House stands in solidarity with the 
suffering victims of the Middle East.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise to condemn in no uncertain terms the slaughter of 
Middle Eastern Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, 
Syria, and the region held by ISIS.
  These are crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Everyone 
should denounce this senseless brutality. The United States and the 
United Nations should officially recognize the mass murder of 
Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East as acts of 
  We do not hear about this massacre often enough from the media. While 
many Americans may never have met someone from the Middle East, we are 
all part of the same human family. Christians in America may be set 
apart from our brothers and sisters in the Middle East geographically, 
but we worship the same God and are connected in our humanity.
  We owe these suffering men, women, and children the greatest 
reverence and gratitude for their fortitude as they endure killings, 
displacement from their homes, forced migration, sexual exploitation, 
destruction of their property, and endure bodily and mental harm.
  We must not remain silent as we live in the comfort of a Nation where 
our liberties are protected by the law and our culture, to a much 
greater degree, permits us to peacefully live out our faith.
  I recall the words from 2001 of Pope John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, 
and His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians, as 
they commemorated the sacrifices of the Armenian Christians who were 
also brutalized by genocide for their faith:

       Endowed with great faith, they chose to bear witness to the 
     truth and accept death when necessary in order to share 
     eternal life.
       The most valuable treasure that one generation could 
     bequeath to the next was fidelity to the gospel so that the 
     young would become as resolute to their ancestors in bearing 
     witness to the truth.
       The extermination of a million and a half Armenian 
     Christians in what is generally referred to as the first 
     genocide of the 20th century and the subsequent annihilation 
     of thousands under the former totalitarian regime are 
     tragedies that still live in the memory of the present-day 

  Fifteen years later their words still ring true as entire communities 
of Christians and other religious minorities are ravaged by genocide 
and religious persecution in the Middle East.
  This persecution at the hands of ISIS is so horrific that, as Pope 
Francis and Patriarch Kirill said last month in a joint statement:

       Whole families, villages, and cities of our brothers and 
     sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.

  It is intolerable to remain silent and turn a blind eye. Silence and 
the failure to accurately identify not some, but all, of the victims of 
this genocide condemns these innocent people to a future of continued 
brutality, destruction, isolation, and genocide.
  All religious minorities in the Middle East deserve religious freedom 
and the ability to live peacefully within their communities, as they 
have done for centuries. We will continue to stand in solidarity with 
them and to denounce the war crimes and genocide being committed 
against the law.
  I want to end with two words, Mr. Speaker, two words: moral clarity. 
This is the time, Mr. Speaker, for moral clarity. Today this House 
spoke. The whole world now watches. We need the administration to 
  I thank my friend.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. Thank you, Congressman Rothfus, for your powerful 
words, and thank you for reminding us that this is about the essence of 
what it means to be human, to stand in solidarity with people far, far 
away who we may never know, but whose fate and our fate should be 
intertwined because of our mutual concern not only for one another from 
the heart, but also for the structures that give rise to essential 
principles, such as religious liberty. Thank you for your good words.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Virginia (Mrs. 
Comstock), my good friend.
  Thank you for your tireless efforts as well on this resolution. 
Behind the scenes you have worked very aggressively in this regard.
  While it has been stated clearly that Anna Eshoo and I led this, 
nonetheless, your work in compelling Members to be involved in this 
question and raising consciousness has been invaluable. Thank you so 
  Mrs. COMSTOCK. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him 
for his very important work on this vital issue of religious freedom.
  I know how closely you worked with my predecessor, Congressman Frank 
Wolf, who continues this fight for religious freedom now in his 
retirement from Congress, but his very active work that continues on 
this important issue.
  I rise to recognize the ongoing struggle for human and religious 
rights in the Middle East and call on the administration to make a 
genocide designation for the war crimes committed by ISIS against the 
Christians and other religious and ethnic groups.
  We had the resolution that we passed tonight, and I thank all of my 
colleagues for that unanimous vote that really should speak to the 
entire country, but also to the entire world, to everybody who is 
asking: When is there going to be help? When are people going to hear 
our cries of anguish?
  This resolution had over 200 cosponsors, which I was proud to join 
the gentleman and so many of my colleagues here tonight and express the 
sense of Congress that those who commit or support atrocities against 
Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and other religious minorities in the 
region and those who target them specifically for ethnic or religious 
reasons are committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and 

  ISIS has beheaded young children, raped young girls, and 
systematically slaughtered people just because of the religion they 
  This is 2016. I remember as a young girl in Catholic school when we 
would study the martyrs and you would think about those ancient times 
and how the first Christians had to suffer and be martyred like that.
  And then we see four nuns, Sisters of Charity, just trying to help 
the aged, the infirm, and they are slaughtered in the name of their 
  We need to have more people hearing about this and focusing on this. 
At this

[[Page H1334]]

time when we have so many side shows that we see the press covering 
every single day, this is something that they need to be dedicating 
their time and their resources to and to be using this mass media that 
we have in so many different mediums to get this word out and 
understand these atrocities that are going on.
  I commend Time magazine for featuring a young Yazidi woman. I believe 
it was last December. She was named Nadia. Her firsthand account was 
chilling, a 21-year-old girl. She testified what these monsters had 
done to her and her family.
  When she tried to escape and was recaptured, she recounted her story 
by saying: ``That night, he beat me up''--this was the person who was 
keeping her in slavery--``forced me to undress and put me in a room 
with six militants. They continued to commit crimes to my body until I 
became unconscious.''

                              {time}  2015

  She spoke of her niece, who had also been kidnapped, who had 
witnessed a woman who was cutting her own wrists, trying to kill 
herself. They heard stories of women who jumped from bridges. In one 
house in Mosul, where Nadia was kept, an upstairs room was smeared with 
evidence of suffering. ``'There was blood, and there were fingerprints 
of hands with the blood on the walls,' she says. Two women had killed 
themselves there'' so they wouldn't have to suffer anymore.
  ``Nadia never considered ending her own life, but she said she wished 
the militants would do it for her. `I did not want to kill myself' ''--
of course, her faith wouldn't allow it--`` `but I wanted them to kill 
me' '' so she wouldn't end up suffering.
  Now she is out there telling the world about this, and we need to 
listen. The European Parliament, the U.S. Commission on International 
Religious Freedom, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the 
Iraqi and Kurdish Governments all have labeled these actions as 
genocide. Now we in the House are on record also.
  These terrorist organizations are not only persecuting Christians, 
but Jews, Yazidis, and so many others, as so many of my colleagues have 
discussed tonight, they also have killed thousands upon thousands of 
Muslims who refuse to pledge allegiance to their tormentors' extremist 
  Last week, the organization of the Knights of Columbus in Defense of 
Christians released a detailed, 278-page report, as Mr. Fortenberry, my 
colleague, has outlined.
  Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record the executive summary from the 
report that details the actions that constitute genocide. I certainly 
would recommend, like the gentleman did, that people look at this 
detailed report, and I would ask that the press cover this.

 A Report Submitted to Secretary of State John Kerry by the Knights of 
                 Columbus and in Defense of Christians

                           EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

       ISIS is committing genocide--the ``crime of crimes''--
     against Christians and other religious groups in Syria, Iraq 
     and Libya. It is time for the United States to join the rest 
     of the world by naming it and by taking action against it as 
     required by law.
       ISIS' activities are well known. Killings, rapes, torture, 
     kidnappings, bombings and the destruction of religious 
     property and monuments are, in some instances, a matter of 
     public record. The European Parliament, the United States 
     Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the Iraqi 
     and Kurdish governments have labeled ISIS' actions genocide. 
     Political leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 
     former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Office of 
     the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights--have 
     done likewise.
       Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry in August 2014 
     stated: ``ISIL's campaign of terror against the innocent, 
     including Yezidi (sic) and Christian minorities, and its 
     grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning 
     signs and hallmarks of genocide.'' Pope Francis and Cyril, 
     Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have decried the genocide 
     in these countries against Christians and other religious 
     groups. Most movingly, archbishops and patriarchs of ancient 
     Christian communities in Syria and Iraq have spoken out 
     clearly against this crime and cried over the blood of their 
     people and ISIS' efforts to rid their homelands forever of 
     the Christian faithful.
       None of these declarations of genocide excluded Christians, 
     who, with the other religious minorities in the region, have 
     endured targeted attacks at the hands of this radical group 
     and its affiliates because of their religious beliefs.
       On February 4, the Knights of Columbus co-authored a letter 
     to Secretary Kerry requesting a meeting to brief him on 
     evidence that established that the situation confronting 
     Christians and other religious minorities constitutes 
     genocide. While there has never been an official response to 
     that letter, we were contacted by senior State Department 
     officials who requested our assistance in making the case 
     that Christians are victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS. 
     Given the specificity of the information requested, our focus 
     in this report is on the situation confronting Christians in 
     areas that are or have been under ISIS control, primarily in 
     Iraq, Syria and Libya.
       ISIS has also targeted Yazidis and other religious minority 
     groups in a manner consistent with genocide. Thus, our 
     contention is not that Christians should be designated as the 
     sole group facing genocide, but rather, that given the 
     overwhelming evidence and the international consensus on this 
     issue, that the United States government should not exclude 
     Christians from such a finding. Doing so would be contrary to 
     fact. The evidence we are presenting to the State Department 
     has three major components:
       1. An executive summary
       2. A legal brief detailing the case for genocide against 
       3. Substantial addenda, including original source material, 
     reports, from NGOs documenting the situation, evidence 
     provided to the European Parliament during their 
     consideration of this issue, lists of atrocities, and similar 
       A genocide determination requires two specific aspects: 
     intent on the part of those committing genocide and genocidal 
     acts. Both are addressed at length in the attached brief.
       Genocide is a crime defined by federal statute and 
     international law. We are asking that Christians be included 
     in finding of genocide and that a recommendation be made for 
     investigation and, in proper cases, for indictment of those 
     responsible. This is required when there is probable cause to 
     believe an offense has been committed by the accused parties. 
     Probable cause is a low standard. When there is probable 
     cause, the duties of the President and the Secretary of State 
     under 22 U.S.C. Sec. 8213 and the Genocide Convention 
     Implementation Act of 1987, 18 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 1091-93 
     require the collection of information ``regarding incidents 
     that may constitute . . . genocide,'' 22 U.S.C. Sec. 8213, 
     and then the President ``shall consider what actions can be 
     taken to ensure that [those] who are responsible for . . . 
     genocide . . . are brought to account for such crimes in an 
     appropriately constituted tribunal.'' 28 U.S.C. Sec. 8213(b).
       As in any indictment, a finding of probable cause would 
     allow the State Department to report to Congress that it 
     believes genocide has occurred and to recommend that this be 
     proven conclusively through a court process.
       It should also be noted that a finding of genocide does not 
     require the killing of an entire group. The words of the U.N. 
     Convention on Genocide and the U.S. statute based on it are 
     clear that what is required are acts aimed at destroying a 
     group ``in whole or in part.'' Both the drafting history of 
     the U.N. Convention and its application by courts around the 
     world have rightly shown that destruction ``in part'' is 
     sufficient to a finding of genocide.
       Similarly, there is ample precedent for finding that forced 
     deportation--often in concert with killing, rape and other 
     forms of violence--qualifies as genocide.
       As to the issue of intent, it should be noted that 
     individual accounts, the collective evidence and ISIS' own 
     public statements make clear that it targets Christians and 
     seeks to destroy Christianity in the lands they control and 
       ISIS' magazine is called Dabiq, named after the place where 
     ISIS believes it will win a battle against the army of Rome. 
     It routinely refers to Dabiq as the location where it will 
     destroy the ``Crusader army,'' an unmistakable Christian 
     reference. The magazine last year published a picture of Pope 
     Francis, captioning him as ``the crusader pope.'' Dabiq 
     proclaims ISIS' intention to destroy Christians:
       We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave 
     your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is 
     His promise to us; He is glorified and He does not fail in 
     His promise. If we do not reach that time, then our children 
     and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons 
     as slaves at the slave market.
       Finally, this certainty is the one that should pulse in the 
     heart of every mujihid from the Islamic State and every 
     supporter outside until he fights the Roman crusaders near 
       It has also stated:
       And nothing changes for the Islamic State, as it will 
     continue to pronounce takfir [abandonment of Islam] upon the 
     Jews, the Christians, the pagans, and the apostates from the 
     Rafidah, the Nusayriyyah, the Sahwah, and the tawaghit 
     [disbelievers]. It will continue to wage war against the 
     apostates until they repent from apostasy. It will continue 
     to wage war against the pagans until they accept Islam. It 
     will continue to wage war against the Jewish state until the 
     Jews hide behind their gharqad trees. And it will continue to 
     wage war against the Christians until the truce decreed 
     sometime before the Malhamah. Thereafter, the slave markets 
     will commence in Rome by Allah's power and might.

[[Page H1335]]

       Elsewhere, Dabiq states ISIS' desire to target Christians 
     under any number of ruses. In addition, a video released just 
     last month by ISIS in Libya states that its adherents should 
     `` `Fight and kill them from their Great Priest (Tawadros II) 
     to the most pathetic one.' '' A second speaker calls for 
     Egyptians to `` `terrorize the Jews and burn the slaves of 
     the Cross.' ''
       ISIS statements related to the beheading of the Coptic 
     Christians brand Christians as ``polytheists'' for their 
     belief in the Trinity, making Christians the same as 
     ``pagans'' in their view.
       The plain meaning of these statements, especially in 
     context, is clear: The so-called Caliphate has slated 
     Christianity for destruction--now and in an apocalyptic 
     battle to come.
       Consistent with its threats have been ISIS' actions. Our 
     fact-finding mission to Iraq earlier this month found stories 
     of rape, kidnapping, forced conversions and murder, in 
     addition to property confiscation and forced expulsion. 
     Almost everything we discovered has not been previously 
       What is publicly known and what our investigation uncovered 
     is substantial, but it has become clear that this still 
     represents only the tip of the iceberg. We are now being sent 
     new stories and new evidence daily. So what is known about 
     ISIS' genocidal atrocities will only increase, and the known 
     scale of the horrors that have occurred can only expand with 
       The victims we met or learned of were many. Their stories 
     were of traumatic experiences they and others had endured. 
     There were also the stories of those who could no longer tell 
     them--the killed and the missing. Some of those we learned 
     about had been wounded physically or emotionally, or both.
       The story of the mother whose child was taken from her arms 
     by ISIS has been reported in the media. We found that her 
     experience was not isolated. Similar reports of family 
     members, adults and children alike, were common.
       Those we interviewed showed great strength. And some showed 
     great heroism as well, despite the dangers to themselves. 
     There was Khalia, a woman in her fifties, who was captured 
     and held hostage along with 47 others. During her 15 days in 
     captivity, she rebuffed demands to convert, despite a gun 
     being put to her head and a sword to her neck. She literally 
     fought off ISIS militants as they tried to rape the girls, 
     and again later when they tried to take a 9-year-old as a 
     bride. Because of the abuse, 14 men gave in to ISIS' demands 
     and said they would convert to Islam. Khalia would not. 
     Ultimately, the hostages were left in the desert to walk to 
     Erbil. Others in Kurdistan affirmed without prompting that 
     ``she had saved many people.''
       Like the Yazidis, Christian women face sexual slavery, a 
     main tool the ``Caliphate'' uses to recruit young men and to 
     exterminate religious groups. A now infamous ISIS slave menu 
     lists the prices by age for ``Christian or Yazidi'' women on 
     sale in their slave markets.
       Murder of Christians is commonplace. Many have been killed 
     in front of their own families. The Syriac Catholic Patriarch 
     of Antioch, many of whose flock lived on the Nineveh plain or 
     in Syria, reports that 500 people were killed by ISIS during 
     its takeover of Mosul and the surrounding region. In Syria, 
     where the organization Aid to the Church in Need has reported 
     on mass graves of Christians, Patriarch Younan estimates the 
     number of Christians ``targeted and killed by Islamic 
     terrorist bands'' at more than 1,000.
       Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo 
     estimates the number of Christians kidnapped and/or killed in 
     his city as in the hundreds, with as many as ``thousands'' 
     killed throughout Syria.
       In Nineveh, many more were taken hostage seemingly at 
     random, or demanded as hostages in exchange for their 
     families to leave. Many of these have not been heard from 
       Shockingly, some see what is happening at the hands of ISIS 
     as not genocidal to Christians. At the root of this argument 
     seems to be the idea that Christians have not been targeted 
     in the same way as others. This is not true. First, 
     Christians have been attacked throughout the region, not 
     simply in the Nineveh area or only during the summer of 2014. 
     Christians have been attacked and killed by ISIS and its 
     affiliates in Syria, Libya, Yemen and surrounding areas. Even 
     before ISIS was constituted, Christians found themselves 
     victims of its predecessors: the Islamic State in Iraq, Al 
     Qaeda and other radical groups.
       Some argue that Christians should be excluded from a 
     genocide declaration because ISIS supposedly allows 
     Christians to pay jizya--a tax historically made available in 
     Islam to Christians in Muslim lands--while denying this 
     option to groups like the Yazidis, who are considered 
     ``pagans'' by Islam.
       The premise is false, because what ISIS calls jizya is not 
     comparable to the historical understanding of that term. 
     Rather, jizya--like so many theological concepts that ISIS 
     holds--can mean something contrary to historic Islamic 
     practice, or it can mean nothing at all. As used by ISIS, it 
     is almost always a term for extortion and a prelude or 
     postscript to ISIS violence against Christians.
       In Nineveh, demands for so-called jizya payments were a 
     prelude to killings, kidnappings, rapes and the dispossession 
     of the Christian population. Not surprisingly, the Christian 
     negotiator Father Emmanuael Adelkello and the other 
     Christians saw this as a ``a ploy from which ISIS could keep 
     the Christians there to further take advantage of them and 
     abuse them.''
       In Raqqa, the offer was made after ISIS had already closed 
     the churches, burned bibles and kidnapped the town's priests.
       It is little wonder that Alberto Fernandez--Middle East 
     scholar and, until recently, a coordinator of U.S. government 
     ideological counterterrorism messaging--found ISIS jizya to 
     be ``more a Satan Caliphate publicity stunt than a careful 
     recreation of jizya as practiced by the early Caliphs.'' He 
     added that this shows that ISIS is not similar ``to the 
     sprawling pluralistic caliphates of history.''
       Furthermore, self-styled ISIS Caliph Abu Omar al-Baghdadi 
     has admitted for nearly a decade that Christians no longer 
     qualify for the historical protection offered by Islamic law. 
     And under his leadership, during the Islamic State's attack 
     on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad in 2010, ``the 
     gunmen made at least four claims [justifications] for the 
     killings, two general and two specific: all of the Christians 
     were infidels; it is permitted to kill them; the killing was 
     in retaliation for the burning of a Koran by an American 
     pastor, and was also in retaliation for the alleged 
     imprisonment of two supposed Muslim women converts in 
       The Knights of Columbus became involved in supporting 
     Christians and other religious minorities in this region 
     because of our long-standing humanitarian activity and 
     support for religious freedom at home and around the world.
       Beginning in 2014, our organization began raising money for 
     refugee relief in the Middle East. These funds have helped 
     Christian, as well as Yazidi and Muslim, individuals and 
     families. We have provided funding for general relief in 
     Aleppo; education for refugees now living in Jordan; and 
     food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care in 
     Kurdistan. One of the clinics we fund in Dohuk has been 
     visited by several Yazidi women who recently escaped ISIS 
     sexual slavery, and it has referred them for psychological or 
     specialist medical treatment. To date the K of C has raised 
     more than $8 million for this cause.
       Long before our involvement on behalf of Christians in the 
     Middle East, the Knights of Columbus stood with persecuted 
     Christians around the world. In the 1920s, we raised 
     awareness and lobbied the American government to help stop 
     the persecution of Catholics in Mexico under the government 
     of Plutarco Calles. In the 1930s the K of C successfully 
     fought against Mussolini's attempted closure of our 
     charitable work in Italy, and throughout the Cold War we 
     stood in solidarity with, lobbied for and supported those who 
     were not permitted to practice their faith in the Communist 
       Today, the threat is the global persecution of Christians, 
     which the Pew Forum and The New York Times have described as 
     occurring at an unparalleled level. What is happening in the 
     Middle East is a microcosm of this, and perhaps its clearest 
     example. It is for this reason that we have partnered with In 
     Defense of Christians in producing this report and sponsoring 
     the national television advertising campaign in support of 
     the petition located at www.StopTheChristian
       It is our hope that our efforts in this regard will be 
     helpful in highlighting and bettering the plight faced at the 
     hands of IS by religious minorities--including Christians. 
     And it is our belief that a declaration of genocide is a key 
     component in that process.

  Mrs. COMSTOCK. Mr. Speaker, the law states that the President shall 
consider what actions can be taken to ensure that those who are 
responsible for genocide are brought to account for such crimes in an 
appropriate constituted tribunal.
  Further, the President is required to develop a clear strategy to 
stop these organizations based on the most recent iteration of the 
National Defense Authorization Act that was passed in November.
  As I mentioned earlier, since his retirement from Congress, my 
predecessor, Congressman Wolf, has worked tirelessly on these issues. I 
am so pleased, and I know he will be so pleased, to see so many of his 
former colleagues and all of us who were able to pass this unanimously 
this evening. I thank him for his strong voice and for all of the 
strong voices who were here tonight so that we can, once again, be 
standing throughout this country and throughout the world as that 
beacon of light which so many of my colleagues have talked about.
  I thank the gentleman for having this Special Order today. I just 
close in asking for prayer for all of those who are suffering around 
the world and for all of those souls who have been tormented, tortured, 
and killed.
  Mr. FORTENBERRY. I thank Congresswoman Comstock for her powerful 
words and her faithful leadership. The gentlewoman had big shoes to 
fill after Frank Wolf's retirement, and I am sure

[[Page H1336]]

tonight, if he is watching, he would be very proud of her efforts in 
this regard and in so many others, leading the fight to try to stop the 
assaults on human dignity.
  Mr. Speaker, when I was a much younger man, I entered the Sinai 
Desert in Egypt. The year was 1979. I was a college student. At the 
site of the fighting that had taken place between Israel and Egypt in 
the 1973 war, there was an all-too-familiar scene of a concrete pile of 
rubble. Scrawled on the side of the concrete pile, both in Arabic and 
in English, were the words: ``Here was the war, and here is the 
  Mr. Speaker, maybe, just maybe, on this, the remnants of this 
Christian church where this cross was planted by this Yazidi man who 
returned to his hometown of Sinjar just recently in January, one day 
will see those same words that here was the war, but now here is the 
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.