NEW YORK – In Syria and Iraq, ISIS/Daesh committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. With the retreat of the terrorist organization, giving up control of its occupied territories, attention is now turning to the future of the persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. On 2 November 2017, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief co-organized an event focusing on this question. It featured a prominent panel of speakers including Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, Mr. Michael Farris, CEO and President of ADF International, and Ambassadors from four UN Member States.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that the inalienable right to religious freedom is one of the foundations of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. What has been happening in Syria and Iraq is the extreme instance that proves the deep need humans have for freedom of religion. Because of their religious convictions—convictions grown out of history, community, intellectual exploration, and many other things—Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq have been targeted, abused, robbed, displaced, raped, murdered, massacred,” said Michael Farris, President and CEO of ADF International in his speech during the UN Side Event.
Victims, experts, and diplomats
The event featured victims, experts, and high-level diplomats who discussed the current situation in the Middle East and contemplated ways of bringing about restoration, justice and reconciliation. Only recently, the UN Security Council created a team that will launch an investigation into the crimes committed by ISIS/Daesh in Iraq. The terror-group is continually losing control in the region and evidence of the atrocities may soon be lost.
One of the speakers was Ekhlas Khudhur Bajoo, an Iraqi woman from the ethnic group of the Yazidis, who was captured by ISIS/Daesh, while her family was slaughtered. After she had managed to escape, she started to speak publicly about the humiliating and agonizing time she had been forced to endure as a slave of the terrorists.
“No person or group should live in fear of being killed, tortured, or oppressed because of their religious beliefs. The future of religious minorities victimized by ISIS/Daesh is of critical importance. While the terror-organisation seems to be crumbling, we need to collect and preserve evidence of their atrocities and ultimately hold them to account,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.
“ADF International is doing everything we can to support the Mechanism for Syria and the up-and-coming Investigate Team for Iraq. It would be better to prevent crimes. But when crimes cannot be prevented, they must be prosecuted. Otherwise law is shown to be meaningless. The laws that protect freedom of religion are not meaningless, and now is the time to prove it.”
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Please, find Mr. Farris’ speech here