Speakers Advocate for Christian Communities in Middle East

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In a conference, where atrocities past and present and hopes for the future were discussed, Cardinal Dolan said that the Church has been proactive in recent years in helping to address terrorism against Christians in the Middle East.

“I think the Church has been doing a lot,” Cardinal Dolan said during the second annual conference on Preserving Christian Communities in the Middle East and Curbing Anti-Semitism.

The cardinal acknowledged that more has to be done by the Church and the world community in general.

The conference took place Dec. 5 at the 3 West Club, on West 51st Street near St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The lead sponsor was The Anglosphere Society, in collaboration with the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Cardinal Dolan told the audience about a remark that Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, made to him three years ago: “You Christians got to get your act together. Take it from us, we learned the hard way.” The remark drew applause from the nearly 200 people in attendance.

Lauder, a former U.S. ambassador to Austria, was seated next to the cardinal during an afternoon panel that closed the daylong conference.

“As far as consciousness raising, as far as speaking about it, (the Church has been doing that),” Cardinal Dolan noted, citing in part Catholic periodicals publishing “well-documented stories of the persecution of Christians throughout the world.”

He noted the constant prayers by the faithful in parishes all over the country for persecuted Christians in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

The cardinal stressed the Church’s aid projects for Christians in the Middle East include efforts led by the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the Order of Malta and other Catholic organizations.

He said that more must be done when it comes to advocacy. “We need to do more of that…I need to make it my business to pester them (United Nations officials) when there are examples of persecution, and negligence of governmental vigilance over the protection of religious freedom in those countries.”

The U.S. Congress should be pressed to be more assertive in its response to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Lauder said. “It’s the most important way—political,” he said.

Conference speakers and panelists expressed their concerns about the years of torture and killing of Christians in the Middle East, and the destruction of Christian churches, cemeteries and other sacred sites belonging to Christians and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS and other Islamic terrorists. They spoke of the difficulties that the United States and other leading governments have had because the terrorist groups cannot be sanctioned the way Iran and other rogue states can be. They spoke of the need to rebuild areas where ISIS has been driven out and refugees are returning.

Panelists stressed the need for “universal rights” for all peoples in the Middle East, and they said it was a positive move when U.S. national leaders finally termed the crisis “genocide.” They said that Christians in the West need to learn more about their counterparts in the Middle East, and they mentioned a call from Pope Francis for an ecumenical effort addressing the crisis.

“I know people who had lost their families in the Holocaust; human rights has always been a personal interest of mine,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, CEO and chairman of the Knights of Columbus, during a morning discussion.

“It’s a continuous crisis that impels continuous action,” Anderson said of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. His panel discussion focused on the importance of having U.S. foreign policies aimed at preserving and protecting Middle East minorities. Alberto Fernandez, director of Middle East Broadcasting USG (Al Harrah), and Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, also took part in the discussion.

The day’s other panelists and speakers included Tristan Azbej, Hungary’s deputy secretary of state for the Aid of Persecuted Christians; Farahnaz Ispahani, a former Pakistani parliamentarian; former U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va.; retired Gen. Jack Keane of the U.S. Army; and Amanda Bowman, founder of The Anglosphere Society.

Conference organizers asked attendees to sign a petition to be delivered to the White House urging President Trump to appoint an interagency coordinator within the National Security Council to oversee programs supported by the U.S. government to help Middle East minorities.

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