You're invited to Washington, D.C.
Middle Eastern Christians are under attack. The Picture Christians Project, along with countless Catholic bloggers and journalists, have opened our hearts and minds to their plight. For some time now, we’ve been following their stories, peering over their images, and watching footage of the on-going persecution there.
When we heard ISIS had bombed the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah, we felt the impact stateside. In horror, we looked on as radicals leveled a site, sacred to all three of the world’s major monotheistic religions, which for centuries has stood near the ruins of the biblical town of Nineveh. It seemed like the final straw had been broken.
In response, we took to fasting and praying for our brethren. We even changed our Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to the Arabic letter nun (for Nazarene). But, we still felt powerless, incapable of reaching out to our Middle Eastern Christian brothers and sisters. What more could we do? There had to be something we could do!
Enter, In Defense of Christians. Here’s the answer. Now’s our chance.
In Defense of Christians (IDC) is based in Washington, D.C. Its central offices are located at 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue — walking distance from the White House. Following Archbishop Francis Chullikatt’s inspiring call to action at the 2012 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Christian leaders and others banded together to inaugurate the work of IDC.
That work takes the form of "a non-profit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to heighten awareness among policymakers and the general public of the existence of ancient and often persecuted minority communities in the Middle East, particularly Christians." IDC is committed to the task of conducting "policy advocacy for vulnerable Christians and other religious minorities."
In other words, what makes IDC different from other groups with a focus on the Middle East is that it is committed to doing something about ending persecution in the world’s most volatile hotspot. In fact, the group trains its focus on Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Holy Land, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan.
To help accomplish its goals, IDC brings together a blue-ribbon team of Middle Eastern and American leaders who share the dream of a better life for our Christian brothers and sisters. Their team includes religious and secular statesmen, scholars, advocates, and other experts. Even former Attorney General John Ashcroft is a member of their team.
How can we get involved?
In September, IDC will host its inaugural summit, which will "feature human rights experts, public officials, representatives in public office, policy makers, diplomats, and representatives from across the Middle Eastern Christian Diaspora." The event will take place between September 9 and 11, a week of painful significance for all Americans.
The summit will feature Cardinal Leonard Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Oriental Institute; Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, the Maronite Patriarch of the ancient Christian See of Antioch; His Beatitude Moran Mor Ignatius Joseph III Yonan, the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch; His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church; His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia; His Excellency Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle for the Chaldeans; and, Professor Robert George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and the Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, among a score of other scholars, activists, and government representatives.
What will happen at the summit meeting with these and other leaders? IDC explains that
IDC knows that up-to-the-minute education and high-level networking are essential parts of an adequate response to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. Those wanting to join the efforts of IDC, won’t want to miss September’s inaugural summit.
John Paul Shimek is a Roman Catholic theologian and a specialist on Vatican affairs. He maintains a blog entitled The Pilgrim Journalist.