March 21, 2016

Washington - Christians in Libya, Iraq and Syria are victims of genocide carried out by the Islamic State, says a report completed for the Knights of Columbus and In Defence of Christians.

Carl Anderson, Knights of Columbus CEO, introduced the 278-page report during a March 10 news conference.

The report details dozens of atrocities, Anderson said, adding that those "may only be the tip of the iceberg."

"Over and over again, we report that as bad as things are, we expect that things are far worse," he said.

The two organizations are trying to get U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to declare that the Islamic State is committing genocide against religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East and North Africa.

If a genocide declaration is made, the perpetrators of the violence then can be indicted and eventually brought to trial, Anderson said.

Until such a designation is made, he explained, Islamic State members can continue acting with impunity toward anyone they claim does not adhere to their fundamentalist beliefs.

State Department officials hinted in October that a genocide designation was coming for the Yezidi minority in the region, but not for Christians.

The comments led to a firestorm of protest from Christian groups.

The report contains dozens of statements collected from Feb. 22 through March 3 from witnesses and victims of atrocities carried out by Islamic State forces.

The incidents include torture, rapes, kidnappings, murder, forced conversions, bombings and the destruction of religious property and monuments.

"Murder of Christians is commonplace. Many have been killed in front of their own families," said the report, titled Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East.