TOUFIC JOSEPH BAAKLINI
Doctor of Laws, honoris causa
Toufic Baaklini was born in Dhour El Choueir, a mountain town in Lebanon with views of Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. Now an American citizen, he cofounded and serves as president and chairman of the board of In Defense of Christians, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., focused on aiding and protecting threatened religious minorities in the Middle East.
For many years, Baaklini has been dedicated to preserving the historic religious communities of the Middle East. His work with In Defense of Christians is in a volunteer capacity. His professional life spans more than 30 years of business management, finance, and development.
In 2014, Baaklini was knighted into the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great.
In an op-ed published on Easter Sunday of this year by The Hill, Baaklini wrote, “In our lifetimes, it is possible for the places that Christianity was born in to die out.”
Baaklini’s efforts to prevent the obliteration of Christianity from its birthplace have been unstinting. He has traveled many times to the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world torn by religious strife. In 2016, at a conference cosponsored by the Holy See, he addressed the United Nations on genocide, imploring his hearers to pay attention to what he described as “crimes that should rattle the conscience of all humanity.”
Whether testifying before Congress, meeting with officials of the State Department and the National Security Council, or addressing other high-ranking figures, Baaklini has been an important participant in the American conversation on the Middle East. He was instrumental in the process that resulted, in 2016, in the unanimously passed Congressional resolution condemning genocide by ISIS. Two years before that, he was a principal organizer of the historic international summit meeting involving the patriarchs of the Middle East, President Obama, and others.
In Defense of Christians has empowered thousands of volunteers in regional chapters across the country. These volunteers share Baaklini’s dedication to educating public officials and others about the religious heritage and diversity of the Middle East, and to heightening public awareness of the marginalization and persecution of minorities.
For his powerful advocacy for religious freedom, The Catholic University of America is pleased to bestow upon Toufic Baaklini the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Given at Washington, District of Columbia
May twelfth, two thousand and eighteen.
President, The Catholic University of America