This Easter will the Australian government call the Persecution of Christians in the Middle East genocide?
Last Sunday two deadly attacks rocked Egypt in two different cities, killing at least 45 Christians. Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks in what has become an everyday occurrence for thousands of Christians worldwide.
Since December, the attacks by ISIS in Egypt have increased and Christians have been killed in their homes, businesses and places of worship. According to experts, the destabilisation of Egypt has become a new target for ISIS.
Speaking in Australia following the attacks, Federal Liberal MP Michael Sukkar told Sky news: “There needs to be a political awakening and movement for people who want to practice their faith in peace.”
He called for the Australian parliament to declare the atrocities committed against Christians around the world as 'genocide' and accused the Islamic State radicals of waging a war on Christianity.
His plea to the Australian government is echoed by many others. Last year the Australian Christian Lobby petitioned Parliament to recognise the attacks on religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as ‘genocide’ so as to add government pressure on the international community to protect the victims of terror, and ensure the perpetrators can be held to account.
Dr John Newton, of Aid to the Church in Need, also added their voice to calls for Daesh (ISIS) persecution to be recognised as genocide. In the Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, he warned of the global impact of "a new phenomenon of religiously-motivated violence", which he terms "Islamist hyper-extremism"…key characteristics of "Islamist hyper-extremism" include systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups - including moderates, unprecedented levels of cruelty, global reach and the effective use of social media, often used to glamorise violence.”
There are also many legislative precedents for the Australian government to follow and take immediate and decisive action. In February 2016, the European Parliament became the first legislative body to recognise the killing and persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East as genocide. The United States House of Representatives then voted 383-0 in favour of recognising the genocide on the 14th March, with former Secretary of State John Kerry declaring: “In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shi‘a Muslims.” Following, on June 2016, the UN commission of inquiry on Syria concluded that ISIS has committed the crime of genocide.
Just last week, the Australian Catholic Bishops submission to the federal government ‘Inquiry into the status of the human right to freedom of religion or belief’ was published. The Bishops highlighted that “Australia has an important role to play in recognising and respecting religious freedom and in promoting dialogue and other initiatives internationally to protect people who are persecuted because of their religious beliefs, including Christians as the most persecuted religious group in the world.”
The Australian Catholic Bishops highlighted that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. More than 100,000 Christians are killed each year because of their faith and the bishops highlighted how in particular, Christians had been driven from the cradle of Christianity in the Middle East.
This Easter we are asking the Federal government for an immediate response to assist those Christians who face consistent persecution, oppression and attack.
We ask the government to take a strong and decisive position internationally and declare the atrocities committed against Christians around the world as ‘genocide.’ Further, we ask that the government also hold to account the perpetrators of these atrocities as many other jurisdictions across the globe, have already done.
This petition will be sent to the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and the Minster of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop. A copy will also be sent to MP Michael Sukkar to support his call for a Coalition-sponsored motion to be put before parliament when it returns in May.