Spotlights impending disappearance of Christianity from the Holy Lands and Middle East
A three-day conference was held Dec. 4-6 in Washington, D.C., on the "Persecution of Christians in the Holy Lands and the Middle East: Consequences and Solutions." The conference was sponsored by the Order of St. Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is the third such conference held by the Archons on religious freedom with the previous sessions held in Brussels, Belgium, in 2010 and Berlin, Germany, in 2013.
Sessions at this year's conference included the "History of the Christian Church" focusing on the disappearance of Christians from the Christianity's birthplace, "Persecution of Christians and Possible Solutions," "Freedoms of Religion and the Press," and "Sacred Sites and Property Rights." The conference brought together top government officials, human rights activists, academics, and religious leaders. Among the participants was His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Johny Messo, president of the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs), Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Fox News Chief Religion Correspondent Lauren Green.
While about 30 percent of the world's population identifies as Christian, the International Society for Human Rights notes that 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination are directed at Christians. In parts of the Middle East -- Christianity's birthplace -- Christian groups have been threatened with extinction with officials, such as then Secretary of State John Kerry, saying in 2016 that groups such as ISIS have committed genocide.
"Christianity is being wiped out from the very lands in which it was born 2,000 years ago," said Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander for the Order of St. Andrew. "By hosting the Third International Conference on Religious Freedom, the Order of St. Andrew shed light on this crisis confronting Christians in the Middle East."
"The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians throughout the world," said Archbishop Demetrios."This conference provided the context for intensifying our prayers to God for the safety and well being of all Christians confronted by forces of hatred, religious intolerance and wild fanaticism. Our prayers and actions on behalf of the threatened, oppressed or persecuted Christians are accompanied by our safe and sure faith in our God, a God of love, justice and power who is under all circumstances present in our life."
Open Doors USA, the California-based non-profit that has tracked Christian persecution for the past 25 years, has reported that each year worldwide more than 3,800 Christians are killed for their faith, more than 2,400 Christian churches and properties are destroyed, and more than 9,200 forms of violence are committed against Christians. The non-profit also points out that ten years ago there were nearly one million Christians in Iraq with a large majority in Mosul while today there are just a few dozen Christians left in that city.