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Church Leaders, Politicians, Laity Meet in D.C. on Behalf of Christians

10 Sep 2014 – By Barb Fraze

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Emphasizing that diversity does not preclude unity, nearly a thousand Christian leaders, politicians and laypeople gathered in Washington to launch a massive effort on behalf of the minority communities of the Middle East.

High-ranking church leaders representing Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, patriarchs of Eastern churches, members of Congress and Christians in the diaspora came together in Washington for the inaugural In Defense of Christians summit. They set off for Capitol Hill on 10 September with a message to U.S. lawmakers and policymakers: Christians and other minorities have an inherent right to live in the Middle East, where they have lived for centuries.

“Some in this city have asked why Christianity is vital to the Middle East, what’s in it for America?” said Andrew Doran, executive director of In Defense of Christians, a new organization with the aim of shaping policy and heightening awareness of Christians in the Middle East. “The short answer is that Christian institutions provide social services, health care and education for millions throughout the region, and that this alone does more to prevent violent extremism than can be measured.

“Christians are not only the doctors, professors, lawyers, and businessmen in their communities; they are also the servants. Their very presence is a source of pluralism that has a moderating influence throughout the region. This is the answer for the policymaker,” he said.

As President Barack Obama prepared to tell the nation on 10 September of his strategy against the Islamic State, the Christian leaders made clear they were not looking for military intervention from the U.S. alone.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, reiterated in his keynote address on 9 September what Pope Francis has said, that the United Nations must be “the place where decisions are made in which all peoples not only proclaim but also defend in practice, with adequate resolutions and actions, the dignity of the Christians in the Middle East, together with those who belong to every other minority.”

Earlier, in a homily at an ecumenical prayer service, Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of Brooklyn, New York, reflected on the Gospel reading of the beatitudes, which he called “a way of life for Christians.” He said even if a person was angry — and those looking at recent events had a right to be angry — it was hard to stay angry after listening to the reading.

He suggested to about 500 people gathered at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel that there were three ways to respond when Christians and other minorities are persecuted:

— Pray and do nothing, “and say to ourselves, ‘Christianity was made for suffering.’“ But, he added, “that is not the way of Jesus.”

— Declare war, fight with every tool available and “destroy those who destroy us. … But that’s not the way of Jesus, either.”

— Nonviolent resistance, which he said worked for Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and St. John Paul II. This requires “much prayer, much fasting, much building of solidarity.”

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Tags: Middle East Christians Unity Relief United States Christian Unity