Philippe NassifExecutive Director
Philippe Nassif is the Executive Director of In Defense of Christians (IDC). Philippe has worked in issue based advocacy and political organizing for over a decade.
Philippe’s work in politics and advocacy is shaped by his family history of immigration and entrepreneurship. He is the first of his family to be born in America–his father being Lebanese and his mother Mexican. Mr. Nassif’s career spans working for Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker’s administration, The White House, President Barack Obama’s campaign, and more recently at the poverty fighting organization CARE USA, where he built and oversaw advocacy efforts and managed relationships with elected officials across 15 states. He also ran for a citywide Houston City Council position in 2015, defying expectations as a young candidate and garnering high profile endorsements from Members of Congress and The Houston Chronicle, while garnering wide bi-partisan support. As Executive Director of IDC, Philippe is tasked with designing and implementing the strategic vision of the organization, growing membership, managing the staff, and representing the organization in Washington DC and across the country. Mr. Nassif holds an MA in International Conflict Resolution from St. Mary’s University and a B.A. in International Studies from the University of St Thomas.
Kirsten EvansSenior Advisor, Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs
Kirsten Evans is Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiative and External Affairs, representing the organization across a broad spectrum of institutional activity. Kirsten joined the IDC team with over a decade of nonprofit executive leadership. She recently served over three years representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in its Muslim, Jewish, and Christian dialogues in the U.S., where she also staffed initiatives concerning international religious freedom and public policy, and as an ad hoc consultant to the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she earned a Master’s degree in International Public Policy with a focus on religion and human rights in global politics. She also studied a specialization in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, UK, and holds a Master’s degree in Religious Sciences from the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, Italy. She is a published contributor to the Washington Times, the National Review, the National Catholic Register and Zenit News, and has provided regular commentary on the situation of Christians in the Middle East across a wide range of national and international television, radio, and print news outlets. Before being named named Senior Advisor, Kirsten served IDC for two years as its Executive Director.
Stephen HollingsheadManaging Director of the Safe Haven Project
Dr. Stephen Hollingshead is Managing Director of Candor LLC, advising clients on political risks, government affairs, and strategy in developing markets.
He served in the Bush Administration as the Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement. His management skills were recognized by the White House and OPM with a $25,000 Award for Extraordinary Accomplishment (rare for a political appointee). While he was coordinating the President’s Management Agenda for HUD, the GAO removed HUD from its High Risk List for the first time ever. As the $40 Billion Department’s chief enforcement official, he realigned its six enforcement centers. Under his leadership, the longstanding aged case backlog of 4,500 cases was essentially eliminated.
More recently, Dr. Hollingshead was the COO of Americans for Prosperity, where he supervised the directors of of Policy, Marketing, Communications, Development, Programs, State Operations, Human Resources, Finance, and Legal Counsel. He also led the formation of a policy initiative that raised $4.5 million in 60 days.
Ninar KeyrouzDirector of Marketing, Media, and Communications
Ninar Keyrouz is the director of Media Communications and Outreach for In Defense of Christians (IDC). Ms. Keyrouz directs the organization’s grassroots outreach efforts to the Middle Eastern Christian diaspora communities across the United States and manages the organization’s brand and identity by communicating IDC’s mission, vision and news to the American and International broadcast, print, radio and digital- social media, and building strong relations with them. Ninar has over a decade of experience in the field of media and communications, including extensive producing, directing, reporting and project management for well-known American and Pan Arab TV networks and digital media platforms. She also has experience with the leading multi-national advertising agency Grey as a producer for one of their biggest clients, P&G. Ninar worked closely as a media consultant with many startups and Middle Eastern celebrities such as the Lebanese Mega Star Magida AL Roumi. She is a graduate of the Lebanese American University of Beirut and is finishing a certification in Integrated Communications from New York University. She is an active member of the Lebanese American community. Ninar is of Lebanese descent and is fluent in Arabic, Assyrian and French.
Loay MikhaelSenior Adviser
Loay Mikhael is IDC Senior Advisor and Head of Foreign Relations Committee of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council and its Washington DC representative. He is deputy Chairman of Soraya Charity Organization in Plain of Nineveh. Mikhael worked as the Operations Manager for Mines Advisory Group between 2005 and 2007. Prior to that, he was an interpreter at Zawita Training Center from 2003 to 2005, and an assistant to engineering section at UNESCO from 2000 to 2001. Mikhael earned his BA in English Language and Translation from St. Clements University in 2010. He speaks Arabic, English, Kurdish and Neo-Aramaic and has published several Newspaper articles. He has also participated in many international conferences on the issues and challenges facing Christians in Iraq and the broader Middle East.
Kristina OlneyDirector of Government Relations and Strategic Communications
Kristina Olney joined the staff of In Defense of Christians (IDC) in 2014. She previously served for two years as the Government Relations Associate at The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) where she helped advance the think tank’s congressional, executive branch, and embassy relationships and manage logistics for large public events and an educational program exclusively for congressional staff. Prior to joining FPI, Ms. Olney worked for two years at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), serving as the Associate Director of Government Relations.Before joining the Commission, Ms. Olney worked on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) as a fellow of the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society, and Law. Ms. Olney completed her B.A. in International Relations with distinction at the Australian National University in 2009 and is completing her M.A. in International Economic Relations at American University. She is fluent in French and proficient in Arabic.
Steven HowardNational Outreach Associate
Steven Howard is the National Outreach Associate for IDC and also the newest member of the team, having arrived in Washington, DC in March 2017 after serving for two years as a Youth Asset Builder with the Peace Corps in Morocco. Before embarking on his adventures in D.C. and North Africa, Steven benefited from meaningful policy experiences as a Child Protection Advocacy Intern with World Vision’s Advocacy and Government Relations Team and as a student leader in many advocacy campaigns on his college campus. Steven received his bachelor’s degree with a major in Political Science and minor in Theology from Azusa Pacific University. He originally hails from San Jose, California and is proud of his Lebanese-Portuguese ancestry .
Nicole RizkallahDirector of Special Projects
Nicole Rizkallah is National Coordinator for Chapter Development. She has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit world, including think tank, research, and educational organizations. Previously, Nicole has served as National Director of Campus Events at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, where she coordinated hundreds of student groups across the country to organize lectures, debates, and conferences to discuss the role of religion in public life. She also has interned at the Family Research Council in Washington D.C., and was a fellow at the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society, and Law (formerly named The Witherspoon Fellowship) and Tertio Millenio Seminar for a Free Society. Nicole received her bachelor’s degree with honors in Business Finance from California Lutheran University and her master’s degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College (MD). She is first-generation American from Egypt and is of Armenian descent. Nicole is based out of Phoenix, Arizona.
Jordan AllotProduction and Media Consultant
Jordan Allott is a documentary filmmaker, founder of In Altum Productions and senior advisor to In Defense of Christians. Mr. Allott has filmed projects in over 25 countries, from China and Syria to Nigeria and Cuba, with themes ranging from Catholic Spirituality and mountain climbing to international human rights and American politics. In 2009-10, Jordan went into Cuba to film a documentary about Dr. Oscar Biscet, a Castro dissident and human rights advocate who was imprisoned by the Communist regime. The acclaimed documentary screened at over 50 venues across Europe, the United States and South America.
More recently, Mr. Allott’s international human rights work has focused on the Middle East, with a multitude of trips to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. In 2014, despite significant ISIS activity in the region, Jordan crossed into Syrian under the cover of night to document the heroic struggle of Christians to survive and returned to Syria and Northern Iraq to film his latest project, Our Last Stand.
Board of Directors
Toufic Baaklini President
Toufic Baaklini is a Lebanese-American with more than 30 years of business experience in finance and development. Mr. Baaklini has committed years of service to preserving the historic Christian communities of the Middle East. To this end, he has testified before Congress, met with officials at the State Department and National Security Council and other high-ranking officials. He lives in the Washington, DC area.
Andrew Doran Vice President and Senior Policy Advisor
Andrew Doran has traveled widely throughout the Middle East and is the author of dozens of articles about U.S. foreign policy, culture, and human rights. His pieces have been published with CNN, First Things, National Review, The American Conservative, The American Interest, The Daily Beast, The Jerusalem Post, The National Interest, The Washington Examiner, and elsewhere. He has been invited to speak on the subject of religious persecution in the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations and previously served on the executive secretariat of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO at the U.S. Department of State. He is an armed forces veteran and attorney, and lives in the Washington, DC area.
Judge Joseph Boohaker, a graduate of the University of Alabama (B.S. – 1976; J.D. – 1979), became a circuit judge for Jefferson County in January of 2001. Judge Boohaker served as a judicial law clerk to the Judges of the 11th Judicial Circuit in Florence, Lauderdale County, Alabama (1979 – 1980) and worked in private practice (1980 – 2000) before serving as a judge. Judge Boohaker is active in the American Bar Association, the Birmingham Bar Association, and the Circuit Judges’ Association.
Mr. Corallo is a political communications and public relations expert, with vast experience in both public service and as a private media consultant. As a co-founder of Corallo Comstock and a member of the Ashcroft Group network, he draws on his extensive experience on Capitol Hill, the Executive branch, and on the campaign trail to advise Fortune 500 companies and high-profile business and political leaders. Mr. Corallo is a veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and a graduate of Georgetown University.
Board of Trustees
Neemat Frem (Trustee)
Neemat G. Frem is President & CEO of INDEVCO Group, a Lebanese-owned and based multinational manufacturing Group employing over 10,000 people worldwide. In January 2013, he launched Loubnan El Afdal – Better Lebanon a national initiative with political, economical and social dimension, with a clear roadmap for a renewal in the Lebanese national contract as an attempt for a restructuring change in the Lebanese continuous political crisis. Frem graduated from the American University of Beirut with a degree in Electrical Engineering.
Charles Hage (Trustee)
A reputable telecom identity across the Middle East and Africa, Charles has over 25 years of worldwide management consulting and expertise in the telecom and engineering sectors. Based in Beirut, Lebanon, he is currently involved in several Middle East companies and non- profit organizations, and has initiated and led a variety of high-profile and successful telecom companies in the United States, the Middle East and Africa. Charles is co-founder and managing director of Mada Communications, a leading wireless data and voice operator in a number of countries across the Middle East and Africa. Mada is a joint venture with Zain, a pioneering mobile operator across the Middle East and Africa. Mada is also a founding member of the Regional Cable Network, (RCN), the first terrestrial fiber optic system bridging the East to West from the Middle East Gulf region to Europe. Charles holds a Bachelor of Engineering Degree from Georges Mason University, Virginia, US.
Antoun Sehnaoui (Trustee)
Antoun Sehnaoui is a Lebanese banker and businessman. He is the current Chairman of Société Générale de Banque au Liban SGBL and the finance house FIDUS Wealth Management. He is also the Vice-Chairman of Société Générale de Banque – Jordan and a member of the Board of Directors of the Banks’ Association in Lebanon. He also supports the Beirut International Film Festival and the Beirut Art Center. Sehnaoui has established himself as the embodiment of the modern Lebanese businessman, an entrepreneur with a strong belief in the future of his country and one who is not shy in taking risks in realizing its vast potential.
Board of Advisors
Former U.S. Attorney General, Governor and U.S. Senator John Ashcroft serves as founder and Chairman of The Ashcroft Group and The Ashcroft Law Firm. In 1985, Mr. Ashcroft was sworn in as Governor of Missouri, where he served two terms. He was then elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, where he served until assuming the role of Attorney General. As a member of the Senate Judiciary, Foreign Relations and Commerce Committees, he worked to reform laws regulating the banking, telecommunications, aviation, transportation and information technology industries. Mr. Ashcroft previously served as Missouri’s Attorney General. He was raised in Springfield, Missouri, received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago.
Anthony J. Asher was born July 5,1938 inLorain, Ohio as a first generation Lebanese ‐American. He holds degrees from St. Edward’s High School, and Clevelan d Marshall School of Law. Married to Ann Shaia since 1960, they have 5 children and 12 grandchildren. Mr. Asher began his career working at a title agency while attending law school. Together with his father he formed Guardian Title & Guaranty Agency while still enrolled as a student. Guardian Title grew to be one of the largest title agencies in Greater Cleveland. Subsequently, Mr. Asher formed Weston Inc., an in dustrial real estate ownership firm that is the largest owner of industrial property in northeast Ohio. Up on retiring in 1999, Mr. As her passed the company on to his three sons Edward, J mes, and TJ, and two daughters Michelle and Suzanne. The company thrives under their ownership today, with Mr. Ash er still serving as Chairman Emeritus.
Dr. Elias Ayoub is an ENT-otolaryngologist in Downey, California. He received his medical degree from Creighton University School of Medicine and has been in practice for 40 years. He is President of the National Apostolate of Maronites (NAM) and is recipient of the National Catholic Doctor of the Year Award. Dr. Ayoub was knighted in the order of St. Gregory by the Vatican. Dr. Ayoub is dedicated to serving the historic Christian communities of the Arab world.
Robert A. Destro is Professor of Law and founding Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. From 1983 to 1989, Professor Destro served as a Commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has served as Special Counsel to the Ohio Attorney General and the Ohio Secretary of State on election law matters from 2004-2006.
Thomas Farr is director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Dr. Farr had a distinguished career in the U.S. Army and the Foreign Service. At the State Department, Dr. Farr was the first director of the Office of International Religious Freedom. He testifies regularly before Congress on issues relating to religious freedom and is published widely. His book World of Faith and Freedom makes the case that U.S. national security interests are undermined by America’s failure to provide leadership on matters of religious freedom.
Stan Holmes has been connected to the US Senate and House Prayer Breakfast Groups since 1981. He has traveled to over 60 countries with or on behalf of the Members of Congress who meet weekly in the Breakfast Groups, maintaining relationships in over 100 countries. Stan has spent many years helping develop small groups in Texas, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Washington DC, at the United Nations, and internationally, around the principles and person of Jesus of Nazareth. He meets with business, educational, religious and political leaders to give them encouragement and counsel with regard to using Jesus’ model of leadership and life. He was a Senior Associate with the International Foundation and in 2011 formed Core Fellowship Foundation to focus and expand the work with leaders in the USA and around the world. He and his wife, Debbie, have three grown, married children and seven grandchildren.
Byron Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, where he founded the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. He is a Senior Fellow at the Witherspoon Institute (Princeton), Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research (San Francisco), and chief advisor for the Center for the Study of Religion and Chinese Society, Peking University (Beijing). Dr. Johnson is recognized as a leading authority on the scientific study of religion, among other areas. He is currently working with the Gallup Organization on studies exploring global religion and spirituality. He is a member of the steering committee of the Christianity and Freedom Project headed by the Berkley Center’s Religious Freedom Project.
Tonia Khouri is a County Commissioner and Chairman of Economic Development for DuPage County, the second largest county in Illinois and was recently the Republican Nominee for the United States Congress. Ms Khouri’s husband, Joe, was born and raised in Lebanon. In 2009, Tonia and her husband were busy building a business and raising their three children when they learned about Christians and minorities being persecuted in Iraq. As regular citizens, Tonia and her family began their mission and traveled the country lobbying for a bill that would promote religious freedom for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.
Once the bill was passed and signed into law, Ms Khouri knew she wanted to continue her mission to advocate for Christians and religious freedom throughout the world.
Tonia and her husband are the owners of Green T Services, a home services company serving over 27,000 customers across the Chicago land area. Tonia completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government from Harvard Kennedy School and received a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations.
Secretary Ray LaHood is a Lebanese-American who served in the Cabinet of President Barack Obama as U.S. Secretary of Transportation (2009-13). Prior to his appointment, Secretary LaHood served in the U.S. Congress as a Representative from Illinois’ 18th District (1995-2009). LaHood was born in Peoria, Illinois, to Edward M. LaHood, a Lebanese American who managed a restaurant, and Mary A. LaHood, who was of German ancestry. He graduated from Spalding Institute, worked his way through Canton Junior College and Bradley University in Peoria, earning a Bachelor of Science in education and sociology in 1971.
Mr. Malek founded Conquest Capital Group in 1999, where he currently serves as Managing Partner and Portfolio Manager, after departing UBS as the Global Head of FX and Derivatives Proprietary trading in Europe and the Americas. Mr. Malek received a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Engineering and Applied Science from the California Institute of Technology (“Caltech”), and received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Reed College. Mr. Malek’s research has been published extensively in academic journals and books including Risk Books and The Journal of Alternative Investments. Mr. Malek has a lifetime concern and commitment for the Christian communities of the Middle East.
Martin Manna is the President of The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Chaldean Community Foundation. The Chaldean Chamber of Commerce seeks to represent the estimated 15,000 Chaldean owned businesses in Michigan. The Chaldean Community Foundation provides social services to more than 18,000 annually. Martin is also one of the founders and publishers of The Chaldean News, a monthly magazine distributed to over 10,000 Chaldean households.
Martin is involved in several civic and community affairs. Currently he is a Director for New Detroit and Advancing Macomb, one of the organizers and board member of The Bank of Michigan and a Director for the Nineveh Council of America.
Alexis Moukarzel served as Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik, Lebanon, from 2001 to 2007. He is an architect and academic whose research focuses mainly on the evolution of Church art and architecture, and their interaction with their cultural context. He was designated by the Maronite Patriarcate as its representative in the “Comité de la sauvegarde de la Qadisha”, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and elected president of the Committee from 2000 to 2005.
Robert Nicholson is the Executive Director of the Philos Project, an American nonprofit that seeks to promote positive Christian engagement in the Middle East. Robert is also the publisher of “Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy.” He holds a BA in Hebrew Studies from Binghamton University and a JD and MA (Middle Eastern history) from Syracuse University. A former U.S. Marine and a 2012-2013 Tikvah Fellow, Robert has published articles in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Mosaic, Canon & Culture, and Syracuse Journal of International Law & Commerce. His work focuses on spreading the vision of a new multi-ethnic and multi-religious Middle East based on freedom and rule of law.
Nermien Riad is the executive director of Coptic Orphans, an award-winning international Christian development organization that works with Egyptian children through grassroots partnerships and volunteer networks, especially those who have lost a parent. Ms. Riad founded Coptic Orphans in 1988 after a visit to Egypt, her childhood home, volunteering for 12 years before becoming executive director in 2000. She has worked for the US Department of State and the Internal Revenue Service. Ms. Riad has been recognized by the National Council of Nonprofits and the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area Community for her work with Coptic Orphans. In addition to serving Egypt’s Christian community, Ms. Riad has been an advocate of the rights of Christian communities in the Middle East, signing the May 7, 2014 on behalf of Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
Larry Ross is President of A. Larry Ross Communications, a full-service agency he founded in 1994 to provide cross-over media liaison emanating from, or targeted to, the Christian market. He has more than 39 years of experience in mainstream and Christian public relations, providing senior strategic PR counsel at both agency and corporate levels to help individuals and organizations influence public opinion through the power of story. Newsweek magazine headlined Mr. Ross’ as “Point Man for God” and a New York Times Magazine personal profile feature quoted him as saying his job is “…to find the sweet spot where faith and culture intersect.” His work includes consultation and ongoing representation for many of the world’s most influential Christian leaders, including Pastor Rick Warren; Christian ministries; churches; and national theatrical film releases, such as “The Passion of The Christ.”
Daniel F. Runde
Daniel F. Runde is director of the Project on Prosperity and Development and holds the William A. Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis at CSIS. His work centers on leveraging American soft power instruments and the central roles of the private sector and good governance in creating a more free and prosperous world.
As a clinician and a humanitarian, Dr. Phillip Salem has 46 years of experience in cancer medicine and research. During the period of 1971 to 1986, Dr. Salem directed the cancer program at the American University of Beirut. Dr. Salem currently serves as Director of the Cancer Research Program at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston. He is also Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Texas Medical School. Dr. Salem is a member of many nationally and internationally recognized cancer societies, including the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Cancer, the American Association of Clinical Oncology, and the American Association for Cancer Research.
Dr. Gregory Stanton
Dr. Gregory H. Stanton is Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia. Dr. Stanton is the founder (1999) and president of Genocide Watch. He was President (2007 – 2009) of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS.) Dr. Stanton served in the State Department (1992-1999), where he drafted the United Nations Security Council resolutions that created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In 1994, Stanton won the American Foreign Service Association’s prestigious W. Averell Harriman award for “extraordinary contributions to the practice of diplomacy exemplifying intellectual courage,” based on his dissent from U.S. policy on the Rwandan genocide.