Specifically, the petition asked the office of Ban Ki-moon to press the U.N. Security Council to declare genocide for Christians and other religious victims of ISIS, and to enforce “mechanisms” to protect genocide victims and prosecute the perpetrators.
It also called for member nations to act “to stop the war in Syria” as well as help internally-displaced persons in Iraq and Syria return to their homes. “Safe havens” for internally-displaced persons should be created, as well as an “action plan to rescue kidnapped and enslaved Christian and Yazidi women and girls.”
Christians have left Iraq and Syria in droves in recent years, and make up 80 percent of minority victims of religious persecution, the “Call to Action” said.
Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities “are victims of the deliberate infliction of life conditions that are calculated to bring about their physical destruction by the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh’: They are being murdered, beheaded, crucified, beaten, extorted, abducted, and tortured,” the petition added.
In addition, women and children have been enslaved, women have been raped and trafficked, children have been “forcibly recruited,” and churches and communities have been destroyed.
Christians in Nigeria have also been targeted by the terror group Boko Haram. According to the group Open Doors, there were over 4,000 Christians killed and almost 200 church attacks in Nigeria in 2015.
The U.S. State Department, the British House of Commons, and the European Union Parliament have already declared that genocide is taking place in Iraq and Syria. Multiple U.N. advisory bodies have already stated that genocide may be taking place, the petition noted.
“So we are here to support our brothers and sisters, Christians and other believers that are suffering persecution, that are suffering killings, that are suffering discrimination in this part of the world, the Middle East,” Arsuaga announced at the press conference.
After the press conference, Archbishop Jeanbart explained to CNA why it is so important for the U.N. to take action on the issue.
“We are undergoing a real genocide,” he said of his diocese in Aleppo, “and we are afraid that they want to take us out of our life, but also of our country, of the place where we were born, where the Church was born.”
“There are two kinds of genocide, human genocide and Church genocide,” he said. Not only are people dying, but the Church itself is “disappearing” from Syria.
“The Church of the first Christians is now collapsing,” he said, noting that the first Syrian Christians were Jews from the Diaspora who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, and were among the 3,000 baptized by Peter and the Apostles.
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“They went back to their cities and they began Christian life there,” he continued, and they ministered to St. Paul when he converted to the faith. “That’s why it’s very important to keep this Church alive,” he said.