The growing movement to secure U.S. government support for at-risk Christian communities throughout the Middle East will be showcased this week in Washington, DC, as In Defense of Christians (IDC) kicks off its second annual conference on Capitol Hill, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The three-day convention, geared toward mobilizing grassroots advocacy in support of Christians in the Middle East, will kick-off on Wednesday, September 9th with a press conference titled, “ISIS, Genocide, and an International Response. Joining ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian at this event will be, among others, Frank Wolf, a former U.S. Representative and the past Co-Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress. Also speaking will be the Chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett; Genocide Watch Founder and President, Dr. Gregory Stanton; IDC Executive Director Kirsten Evans, and other top religious and human rights leaders. They are all expected to call attention to the systematic eradication of entire communities of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, and to draw parallels to the World War I-era genocides of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Syriac and other Christians.
On Wednesday evening, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States will be joining Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and a broad range of representatives of Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical and other Christian denominations and rites for an Ecumenical Prayer Service at St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill.
On Thursday, a bi-partisan group of Senators and Representatives will share their efforts to mobilize Congress in support of Christians in the Middle East, followed by a talk on effective advocacy practices by a team of government affairs experts, which will include the ANCA’s Kate Nahapetian and A Demand of Action’s Steve Oshana, among others.
The convention will culminate in a Solidarity Dinner, which will feature remarks by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein, Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, Cardinal Wuerl, and Patriarch Youssef Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians for the Syriac Catholic Church, among others.
“The eradication of entire communities in the Middle East calls for a response from the international community,” said the IDC’s Kirsten Evans, in a press statement issued in the run-up to the landmark convention. “Acts of genocide and crimes against humanity in Iraq and Syria have been clearly documented. The response of the United States and the international community has been completely inadequate. In some cases, these atrocities are met with silence. This silence makes us all complicit.”
In Defense of Christians (IDC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to the preservation and protection of Christians in the Middle East. IDC and its advocates from chapters across America will meet with leaders on Capitol Hill, engage the media and general public at the National Press Club, and seek to strengthen ties between American and Middle Eastern Christians. A key component will be urging members of Congress to recognize what has happened to Christians, Yazidis, and others as “genocide.”
His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, joined with Christian leaders from throughout the Middle East at the inaugural IDC conference in 2014, offering a powerful call for unity in the face of the existential threat against historic Middle Eastern Christian communities.