Last week, IDC concluded its Fourth Annual 3-day Summit on Thursday, October 26, 2017. The Summit which was entitled, “American Leadership and Securing the Future of Christians in the Middle East,” began on Tuesday, October 24. During the summit, policy makers and proponents gathered together to advocate for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. A keynote speech was given by Vice President, Mike Pence. The summit was held in partnership with the Philos Project, the Armenian National Committee of America and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Tuesday, Oct. 24: National Press Club

The National Press Conference was held at the National Press Club. Policy and human rights experts engaged the national media in pressing for a way forward for Christians and other ethno-religious minorities in the Middle East based on IDC’s 5 point policy agenda. The event also focused on the importance of national security in helping minorities in the Middle East, a population which has historically served as a bridge builder.

IDC’s Vice President and Senior Policy Advisor Andrew Doran stated that “They are more than symbols. The Christians of the Middle East are millions of living and breathing people. They are bridges of peace in their communities.”

Patriarch Al-Rai of the Maronite Catholic Church stated that “we look to America to help us negotiate permanent peace. This is the dream of all people who live in fear but long for peace. We seek friendship with those on our borders and beyond. It is here that our ancient world and your new world must encounter one another and begin to understand one another.”

Patriarch John X of Antiochian Orthodox Church focused on the existence of Christians in the Middle East adding that: “We are going to remain and stay there. We were born there as God wished and we lived there, and we shall die there. We cannot ignore the fact that without Christians in the Middle East, there is no Middle East and this is what is affirmed and confirmed by even Muslims themselves!”

The Ecumenical Prayer Service for Christians in the Middle East took place at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral, where several faith leaders gathered together to pray for peace. A moving performance of Aramaic chants was performed by Internationally Acclaimed Lebanese Singer Abeer Nehme and a reflection given by Rev. Johnnie Moore.

Wednesday, Oct. 25: Policy Briefing Day

IDC gathered for a policy symposium day where panels focused on the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, the civil war raging in Syria, the United States’ interest in protecting religious minorities in the Middle East, and on U.S. policy toward its allies who persecute their minorities. The panels included: Lebanon and Syria: Security and Stability Post Conflict, How to Advance U.S. Interests by Protecting Religious Minorities in the Middle East, and finally Lunch and Panel: Who Are America’s Allies and Enemies in the Middle East? A Hard Look at Turkey, Iran and the Gulf States.

In the evening, IDC summit attendees gathered to listen to Vice President Mike Pence’s Keynote Address at IDC’s fourth Solidarity Dinner where he announced that the US would provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID. The Vice President stated that “In the mountains of Syria, the valleys of Lebanon, on the plains of Nineveh, the plateaus of Armenia, on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, the delta of the Nile, the fathers and mothers of our faith planted seeds of belief. They’ve blossomed and borne fruit ever since. But now that garden of faith, generations in the making, is under threat. It’s under threat of persecution and mistreatment. Many of the Christian communities that first embraced the message of Christ are today the targets of unspeakable acts of violence and atrocities.”

Afterwards at the Solidarity Dinner, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) was awarded the prestigious “Cedars of God” award. The dinner also featured remarks by Rep. Darin Lahood, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and a performance by Acclaimed Lebanese Singer, Abeer Nehme.

DAY THREE: On day three of the summit, the IDC community took over one-hundred advocates ,who represented delegations from twenty-six states, to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress and advocate for policies critical to the existence of Christian communities in the Middle East.

Our advocates heard from seventeen members of Congress and visited over two-hundred House and Senate offices, meeting with members and staff to build support for—a stable Lebanon (House Resolution 252), the need for immediate genocide relief (H.R. 390), and to call for a recognition of the Armenian Genocide (House Resolution 220).

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