Washington, DC: October 25, 2017. (PCP) Yesterday, at the National Press Club, In Defense of Christians (IDC) kicked off its fourth annual three-day convention with a press conference. IDC gathered with fellow partners and panelists to highlight their policy agenda. The conference addressed human rights and foreign policy concerns in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the religious persecution of Christians and the national security of the U.S.
Andrew Doran, IDC's Senior Policy Advisor and Vice President, stated in his opening remarks that "They are more than symbols. The Christians of the Middle East are millions of living and breathing. They are bridges of peace in their communities." Afterwards, he introduced Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rai of the Maronite Catholic Church and Patriarch John X of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All The East.
Patriarch Rai's comments focused on lasting solutions for the Middle East. He stated that "we look to America to help us negotiate permanent peace. This is the dream of all people who live in fear but long for peace. We seek friendship with those on our borders and beyond. It is here that our ancient world and your new world must encounter one another and begin to understand one another."
Patriarch John X, whose comments focused on the existence of Christians in the Middle East added that “we are going to remain and stay there. We were born here as God wished and we lived there, and we shall die there. We cannot ignore the fact that without Christians in the Middle East, and even Muslims themselves say!”
Three of IDC's Summit Sponsors each gave their own remarks about why they chose to support IDC's Summit and Policy Agenda this year. Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, pointed out 4 reasons why American Christians are hesitant to support the persecuted Christians of the Middle East and how important it is to continue raising awareness among Americans about their plight.
Robert Nicholson, Executive Director of the Philos Project, focused his remarks on how the goals of IDC and the Philos Project converge, especially in regards to aiming for a future in the Middle East where Christians can not only just recuperate their losses, but can thrive and expand. Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, praised IDC's fight for religious liberty abroad and how U.S. engagement in helping the Christians in the Middle East will signal to the world the strength of American moral leadership throughout the world.
Later in the day, IDC gathered at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for an Ecumenical Prayer Service led by the Apostolic Nuncio of the United States of America, Archbishop Pierre. Around 20 participants from the clergy and other religious leaders, including Patriarchs from the Middle East, prayed for peace in the Middle East and safety for their Christian brothers and sisters. Rev. Johnnie Moore shared a reflection with the audience and he stated that "Christians in the East are enduring an all-out assault while Christians in the West live their lives largely oblivious to it all and it has to change. This is no imaginary persecution." Throughout the service, internationally acclaimed Lebanese singer Abeer Nehme gave a special performance, chanting ancient Aramaic, Armenian and Arabic hymns.