The Obama administration finally took an important first step toward protecting Christians and other minorities who are being slaughtered by ISIS – the Islamic State.

Secretary of State John Kerry has now labelled the atrocities as “genocide” – a long overdue designation which represents a significant step toward the U.S. leading the world in stopping this historic evil being perpetrated by ISIS. 

As we’ve been advocating for years, ISIS is committing genocide and other international crimes. The Obama Administration’s determination and declaration is a significant victory.

In his remarks Thursday Secretary Kerry stated that ISIS is “responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.” He said the terrorists are “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.”

And Secretary Kerry asserted that ISIS is also “responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

The designation comes after growing pressure by the Administration to act as I pointed out last week.

While Secretary Kerry said that he is “neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury with respect to the allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing by specific persons,” he did adamantly emphasize that the international community must recognize what ISIS is doing to its victims, the perpetrators must be held accountable, and, while naming the crimes is important, “what is essential is to stop them.”

While the genocide designation is an important first step, we must continue to urge the Obama Administration to comply with its moral and international responsibilities in the face of genocide. 

The designation affirms that the definition of “genocide” under U.S. law has been met. Because the U.S. has ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, it must now seek enforcement of the Convention.

Obama Administration officials have already asserted that “Kerry's finding will not obligate the United States to take additional action against ISIS militants . . . .” The United States must lead the world in defending Christians from genocide, not merely pay lip service to their plight as they are slaughtered. And the United Nations needs to do its part on the world’s stage.

The bottom line: in order to fully protect Christians from genocide, there must be a commitment followed by action to defeat and destroy ISIS.

We’re grateful for the more than 435,000 people worldwide who signed our petition and spoke out on behalf of the persecuted Christians.

And we will not stop until ISIS is defeated once and for all, ending the genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

Until Christians are truly protected, until ISIS is defeated, we will continue aggressively advocating across the globe for each and every life facing the threat of genocide.

Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He’s a New York Times bestselling author. Jay’s latest book – “Unholy Alliance: The Agenda Iran, Russia, and Jihadists Share for Conquering the World” – is available now.  He hosts "Jay Sekulow Live"-- a daily radio show which is broadcast on more than 850 stations nationwide as well as Sirius/XM satellite radio. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.