Bishop Angaelos welcomes US declaration that ISIS has committed genocide

HG Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United KingdomBishop Angaelos is the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom and Moderator of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI). In a statement he welcomed the recent US declaration that ISIS has committed genocide.

“Through this recognition, an important precedent has been set demonstrating that the international community has real concern for those who have suffered and continue to suffer under these conditions, and that we will work together to ensure, to the best of our ability, that these atrocities are not repeated.

“This also sends a very clear message to all those suffering: Yazidis, Christians, Shia and others, that we not only feel their pain, but that we stand together to recognise their suffering and support them in whatever way we can.”

Speaking to Christian Today he explained that while in the US last week “there seemed to be such reservation about declaring a genocide against Christians that the general expectation was it would be genocide for other groups but not Christians … but it is very welcome that now both Congress and the [Obama] administration have declared a genocide against Christians as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims”.

This is only the second time that an US administration has declared an ongoing conflict to be genocide. The term signals the gravest possible crime against humanity and places obligations on the US to intervene.

US secretary of state John Kerry explained “In my judgement Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia (Shi’ite) Muslims”. He added the militant group was genocidal “by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”. Kerry’s announcement follows a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives to use the term. The European Parliament had already declared the atrocities committed by ISIS a genocide back in February.

Za'atari Jordan Refugee camp - Bishop Angaelos visit in March 2016Earlier in the week, Bishop Angaelos visited the Za’atari Refugee Camp (the largest in Jordan and second largest in the world). Copts have been caught up in the violence. Last February, ISIS released a video depicting the murder of 21 Copts on a Libyan beach. Bishop Angaelos said he was speaking up for all groups “who have been subject to horrific treatment”.

“I hope the implication of this declaration for people under ISIS rule is they feel we understand their suffering and recognise what have been going through. I hope they will recognise we will stand with them going forward.”