The Chaldean Federation of America takes part in:
Persecuted Christians and Other Religious Minorities in the New Middle East:
Formulating an Effective U.S. Policy Response.
We are honored to have as our keynote speaker His Eminence Cardinal Dr. Christoph Schoenborn, the Catholic Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and the Ediitor of the Catholic Catechism. Cardinal Schoenborn has been a leading voice on this issue within the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, which recently induced the European Union to issue a statement that “firmly condemned” recent violence and terrorist acts against Iraqi and Egyptian Christians and others. The United States government has yet to issue any similar statement of concern.
The roundtable will begin with short formal remarks by Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and my former colleague on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Dr. Habib Malik, a noted scholar of Middle Eastern Christians who is based in Lebanon, will also give opening remarks.
We are inviting about 35 key figures, such as yourself, to participate in this closed event. Our participants are being selected for their unique perspective, experience, and knowledge, and will include members of various faith groups.
In early 2011, a revolutionary uprising, optimistically dubbed “The Arab Spring,” took place in the Middle East and North Africa. While initially tinged with hope, it has brought great danger to the region’s largest communities of indigenous Christians and other religious minorities. The ancient Chaldean, Assyrians, and Coptic churches of Iraq and Egypt – Egypt being the Arab Spring’s epicenter – are in particular peril. They are threatened with religious cleansing by Islamist forces acting with renewed violence now that repressive secular rulers have been removed. Perhaps there is no more poignant and symbolic example of the Islamist assault on Christianity than the bombing of a church full of worshippers on Christmas Day or any given Sunday morning. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of just such attacks on churches in these countries. Iraq alone has seen at least 70 church bombings in the past eight years. New dangers loom for Syria’s large Christian communities and others as jihadist and other Islamist forces enter the scene.
In significant parts of the Muslim world, converts from Islam to Christianity are at risk of being put to death or otherwise harshly punished either by governments or by extremist elements within society. They are denounced as “apostates.” The threat facing all Arab world Christians, old and new, was heightened by a recent fatwa of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti calling for the “destruction of all churches in the region.” Intensifying religious persecution faced by Christians in the Muslim world has been acknowledged and reported on by a diverse array of sources, including the Pew Research Center, the Economist, Newsweek, National Review, and Commentary magazine. But it has yet to be a concern of focus of our political leaders.
Our roundtable’s goal is to assess the threats facing Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and identify policy recommendations that will help strengthen religious freedom and other basic rights for them. Currently neither President Obama nor Governor Romney has publicly raised this crisis, much less proposed policies to address it. We hope that this event will lead to an informal consensus among us on appropriate policies, which our participants can present in later meetings we are requesting with each candidate.
We will convene at the University Club of Washington, 1135 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. A reception will be held at 11:30 a.m., followed by Cardinal Schoenborn’s keynote address and lunch at 12:00 noon. The roundtable remarks and discussion will begin at 12:30 and end no later than 2:30 p.m. Dress is business attire. In order to facilitate a candid exchange of views, the roundtable discussion will be off the record, and entry will be by invitation only.
I hope you will be able to join us on what will be a seminal event. Your participation would enrich our discussion.
Nina Shea, Director
Center for Religious Freedom
Cardinal Schönborn to Washington: ‘Syria and Egypt Must Not Become Iraq’
National Catholic Register
Over the past decade, Cardinal Schönborn has watched the flight of Iraqi Christians from their ancestral villages with great concern, sharing information about their plight with Catholic bishops’ conferences in Europe. The Church leader from Austria …
Re: Can Mideast Christians Survive?
By Nina Shea
June 27, 2012 6:48 P.M.
Hudson Institute’s round-table discussion on “Persecuted Christians and Other Religious Minorities in the New Middle East: Formulating an Effective U.S. Policy Response,” described by Mark Tooley, was opened with a keynote address by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Catholic Archbishop of Vienna and editor of the Catholic Catechism. Two other opening talks followed, one by Dr. Habib Malik associate professor of history and culture with the Lebanese American University in Beirut and the other by Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. These three talks can be viewed here.
At the session, 60 policy- and opinion-makers, church leaders from a variety of faith traditions, scholars, religious-freedom advocates, and representatives of the Iraqi and Egyptian Christian communities as well as the Ahmadiyya Muslim and Baha’s minorities also engaged in two hours of debate and strategizing that was off the record. We will be taking some of the session’s best ideas on how America can use its influence to protect Christian and other religious minorities in the new Middle East to President Obama and Governor Romney with the plea that they take up the issue in their campaigns. The survival of Christians and other defenseless religious minorities in the region will stand a better chance if the United States makes religious freedom a foreign-policy priority.
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Can Mideast Christians Survive?
By Mark Tooley
June 27, 2012 3:50 P.M.
Can Mideast Christians survive under surging Islamist movements, especially now that Egypt’s large Coptic Church must live under the Muslim Brotherhood?
The Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom on June 26 hosted a forum for religious freedom experts, including Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna.
Schoenborn reviewed the early history of Muslim conquest in the Middle East, noting Christianity survived in Egypt but died elsewhere in North Africa. Given current disturbing trends, the remaining Christian communities in the region may yet replicate North Africa’s eradicated church.
“It would be a deep wound to lose Christianity’s own homeland and land of origin,” Schoenborn said. Islam and Christianity are both called to “universal mission” but must live together. “Religion is an essential part of society,” he observed, as the Islamist resurgence proves. But policy makers ignore religion’s importance.
Disputing Israel’s existence is “out of the question,” Schoenborn declared. “I clearly stand for the right of existence of the Jewish people in their own homeland.” He regretted both Iraq wars’ impact on Iraq’s once-relatively-large Christian population, much of which has since emigrated.
Survival for Mideast Christians, Schoenborn insisted, requires secular states to guard religious freedom. “No state can assume the Kingdom of God, which is not identical with any political reality,” he warned. America’s desire to export democracy has “good intention” but must help Christians “breathe,” since they are “landmarks” for pluralism. Egypt and Syria must not follow Iraq’s example, he implored.
Schoenborn described the “new presence of Christians coming from Asia,” as laborers in wealthy Arab states. He urged American influence for protecting the 1 million Catholics in Saudi Arabia.
Following Schoenborn was Lebanese professor Habib Malik. Himself a Christian, he observed a “persistent plague” of dictatorships’ collapsing, creating a “jumble of disturbing outcomes.”
Young “Facebook liberals” networked with each other but not the countryside. Their push for human rights was “hijacked by illiberal Islamists,” and “liberalism is giving way to defiant shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar.’”
Malik said for many Christians the Arab Spring “sounds like a black joke.” Long-accustomed to social subordination, and without any Arab democratic model, they want equality and freedom for all. But liberalism in the Arab world suffers from “endemic weakness.”
Denouncing the “immoral argument” for a “resigned and lazy attitude to Islamists coming to power,” Malik urged the West to “draw a thick red line to protect meager freedoms” in the Mideast. Potential oppressors should be forewarned they will be “watched like a hawk.”
Following Malik was Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, who lamented that the U.S. first enabled radical Islam with President Jimmy Carter “pulling the rug out from under the Shah,” allowing Islamist rule in Iran. Egypt’s large Coptic Church with many millions creates a “different magnitude” of possibly intense persecution, Land warned. “We’re it,” Land reminded Americans. “We’re the last line of defense these people have.”
“When the U.S. loses its backbone and becomes an invertebrate, the persecuted of the world suffer,” Land declared. “Fascist religion in Iran and Syria is not as scary as the Soviet Union,” he recalled, against which President Reagan waged a war of rhetoric. Land surmised: “If we can back down the Soviet Union we can back down the clowns in Iran and Syria.” And he concluded, “We are accountable to God for how we use our sphere of influence.”
It remains to be seen how conscious most Americans, much less policymakers, are of their providential responsibility to advocate in defense of the persecuted.
— Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.