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This column was written in December of 2015 by His Grace, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, and has appeared in print in the Chicago Sun Times, the Des Moines Register, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Indianapolis Star.
Since the end of the Second World War, an international effort has been undertaken to protect civilians in armed conflict and to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
In 2005, recognizing the ongoing failure to adequately respond to the most heinous crimes known to humankind, world leaders at the United Nations World Summit made an historic commitment to protect populations through a resolution entitled the “Responsibility to Protect,” which stipulates that:
- The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing;
- The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility; and,
- The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a nation fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures through the United Nations Security Council.
The current conflict in Syria, once confined but now enveloping Iraq and much of the Middle East, has endured far too long in endless fighting. The international community has witnessed numerous examples of war crimes, of ethnic cleansing, and far too many examples of genocide against Christian minorities.
Just earlier this year in a barbaric, visual display, 21 men were executed for no other reason than being Christians. This incident itself is the very definition of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
In yet another example, we have seen the Arabic letter “N” appear on Christian properties throughout the region, a readily visible reminder of the Jewish Star placed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Once an individual finds this mark on their property, they have less than 24 hours to leave or face certain death for them and their family.
Yet despite signing to support the principles of “Responsibility to Protect,” the elected leaders of our own nation have yet to officially enact this important resolution.
While it may seem like we in the United States have little ability to change matters in the Middle East and elsewhere, I am convinced change can be achieved through added education and attention to the problem. We made a commitment along with the other member nations of the United Nations to never again sit back and allow such heinous crimes to be committed. Now that we see them displayed before our very eyes, how can we ignore that commitment?
The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, representing all Greek Orthodox parishioners within Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota as well as large parts of Missouri and Indiana, have called on our President, Senators and Congressmen to take the steps required to officially enact the “Responsibility to Protect” resolution. We have sent them our own resolution addressing this issue passed by our parishioners as well as strongly encouraged each individual parish and parishioner to reach out to their individual national leader on this topic.
As we celebrate the holy days of our religious traditions and the New Year, I ask that you please join us in this effort by taking a moment to simply discuss this situation with one or more of your friends and family. You can take action by joining us in contacting your elected leaders. Together we can make a difference. Together our voices cannot be ignored.
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