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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York


Donovan, Borelli, Religious Leaders Call on U.S. to Declare "Genocide"

March 11, 2016
Press Release
Leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim communities stand shoulder-to-shoulder in common plea to call ISIS atrocities what they are

Staten Island, NY—March 10, 2016....Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), Council Member Joseph Borelli, and leaders from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities today called on Secretary of State John Kerry to declare that ISIS atrocities against religious minorities constitute “genocide.” Leaders from the world’s three major religions stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a common plea for international recognition of the systematic slaughter taking place in the Middle East.

Per a law passed in December 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry must determine whether the United States will declare genocide by March 17. In early February, the European Parliament passed a resolution recognizing ISIS’s actions as genocide. Next week, the House of Representatives will vote on a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities.

Congressman Donovan said, “Last year, the world watched a beach turn red as executioners sawed off the heads of 21 Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean. Last week, terrorists executed nuns caring for the elderly and frail. And in the months between, ISIS has buried hundreds or thousands of slaughtered Yazidis in mass graves. Political correctness cannot stand in the way of our moral obligation to call this what it is: genocide.”

ISIS forces Christians to live under its brutal ideology or face death. The terrorist organization has killed countless Yazidi men and enslaved and raped Yazidi women, selling or gifting them to one another as if they were property.

The United Nations defines genocide as: "Any of the following acts committed with 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."


Congressman Dan Donovan
Council Member Joe Borelli
Reverend Father Samuel Boulos, Coptic Orthodox Church
Bishop John O’Hara, Archdiocese of New York
Scott Maurer, Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island
Ismail Alaca, Executive Director of the Turkish Cultural Center of Staten Island
Rev. Terry Troia, Staten Island Interfaith Clergy Leadership

Congressman Donovan’s Remarks as Prepared

It’s funny how the mind works – how we remember things years later. When thinking about these remarks, I remembered going to Sunday school as a boy and reading about King Herod’s atrocities. Matthew chapter two describes the “Massacre of the Innocents,” when Herod ordered his soldiers to slaughter all the boys in Bethlehem because he wanted baby Jesus dead.

I must have been only 7 or 8 years old, and the story terrified me. After church, I asked my mother whether Herod’s slaughter could happen today. She told me no, Danny, nothing like that could happen now. “Why?” I asked. “Because we wouldn’t let it.” I couldn’t articulate it then, but I felt relieved, I felt happy and lucky.

Today, the world is led by decent men and women who embrace freedom and oppose oppression. Today, the greatest arsenals civilization has ever known are wielded by elected leaders, not by despots. Today, modern law – founded on the principles of property, privacy, and liberty – governs society, not the whims of a dictator.

Still, when considering the long history of civilization, we look back in horror at the unimaginable pain mankind is capable of inflicting on itself, and each succeeding generation wonders how a people stood idly by as warring factions destroyed innocent life and property.

At the same time, even today, entire cities tremble under the brutal diktats of a disgusting, perverted ideology. Even today, ISIS forces Christians to live under its distorted brand of Islam – or face a violent death. Even now, ISIS kills Yazidi men and boys by the thousands, dumping their bodies in mass graves. ISIS enslaves women – captures them, buys them, and sells them – and wantonly rapes them over, and over, and over.

ISIS atrocities are more reminiscent of Old Testament brutality than an enlightened, modern age.

Last year, the world watched a beach turn red as executioners sawed off the heads of 21 Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean. Last week, terrorists stormed a retirement home full of nuns caring for the elderly and frail. The attackers handcuffed their victims, raised their weapons, and shot them in the head. Nuns and the elderly. Their last vision before departing this world was the barrel of a blood-soaked rifle and eyes filled with evil hatred.

ISIS’s goal is to rid the region of religious minorities. It’s genocide, plain and simple.

This is not the world my mother described to me as a boy. It’s a world in which a tyrant like Herod might thrive. Evil people are co-opting an entire religion to achieve their own barbaric ends.

I hope we can have the resolve to call this what it is: genocide. It’s a group of armed soldiers executing Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities because they refuse to renounce their faith.

Scripture speaks of perseverance and endurance in faith under siege, and not growing weary. Matthew says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

But that doesn’t excuse our silence. Political correctness cannot stand in the way of our moral obligation as a free and decent people. Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which I serve, unanimously passed a resolution defining ISIS’s atrocities as genocide. A law passed in December requires Secretary of State John Kerry to declare by March 17th whether ISIS is committing genocide.

I’m standing before you today, with colleagues and religious leaders, to call for final passage of the resolution, and to ask Secretary Kerry to have the strength and conviction to label the horrific crimes in the Middle East as “genocide.”

Let’s make our children and grandchildren proud. Let’s not sit silently while villains with guns and swords rape, pillage, and murder the defenseless.