Moving documentary shown at In Defense of Christians chapter launch

On Dec. 6, Colorado Christian University premiered a documentary film called Our Last Stand, which recounts the journey of Helma Adde and other Syrian-American women who traveled to Iraq and Syria to spread the news of the dire situation in the Middle Eastern Christian communities, which are threatened daily by the civil war of ISIS.

The screening coincided with the launch of the Denver chapter of In Defense of Christians (IDC), an advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that works to raise awareness and build support for the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

The film opens with Helma visiting some of the refugee camps where Christians flock to, forced to flee from their homes due to the attacks of ISIS.

During the film, the different stories portrayed move the viewer and give inspiration and hope—such as that of the members of the local military forces that help to defend and take back the villages located in the plains of Niniveh, Hasaka, Siria, and Qamishli in north of Syria.

The main purpose of the documentary is to “educate the Christians and non-Christians – especially in United States – to learn more about the Christian communities in that part of the world, to let them know how they live and the role that they play in those communities and being a voice to the persecuted Christians,” Our Last Stand director Jordan Allot said.

Many college students turned up to see the film. After watching the documentary, many said they feel motivated to contribute in one way or another to the aid of persecuted Christians.

“This documentary film has a lot of power. I knew this happened [in the Middle East], but I did not know this situation thoroughly,” said Lexi Gray, a freshman in college. “The power to be well-informed will lead us to the correct way to help those people.”

Another college freshman, Resee Simpson, said, “We, as Christians and human beings in general, should be worried about these things, no matter their religion. They have the right to live without oppression by other human beings.”

Kirsten Evans, executive director of In Defense of Christians, spoke about different ways in which ordinary people could take part of this fight. She broke it down into four main steps.

“Educate ourselves, educate others about the situation of the persecuted Christians, plead for them, build projects to show solidarity with the cause, and if it is possible, contact your state representatives to see what they are doing about it,” Evans said.

Our Last Stand

For more information about the documentary, visit ourlaststandfilm.com

In Defense of Christians (IDC)

IDC was founded in 2014 in Washington D.C. with the mission to ensure the protection and preservation of Christianity and Christian culture in the Middle East. IDC pursues a grassroots mobilization of the Diaspora communities around the world in unity with other concerned Christian communities and all people of good will toward this end. They work to foster global awareness of the on-going plight of Middle Eastern Christians, encourage political advocacy in order to educate national and international policy makers so as to act toward this goal, and promote programs of humanitarian aid in solidarity with suffering Christian communities in the Middle East. IDC is an American-based 501c3 non-profit organization. For more information, visit indefenseofchristians.org.

COMING UP: Plight of the persecuted

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Plight of the persecuted

Legislators recognize “war crimes” against Mideast Christians as genocide

Aaron Lambert

Ahead of Holy Week, legislation passed by the House of Representatives formally designated the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East by Islamic State as genocide.

House Resolution 75 was first introduced in the House by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) in September of last year. The aim of the bipartisan legislation was for all governments of the world, including the United States, to recognize the actions of ISIS against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East as being “war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

The legislation also urged members of the United Nations to “coordinate on measures to prevent further war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide” and “punish those responsible for these ongoing crimes, including by the collection of evidence and, if necessary, the establishment of appropriate tribunals.”

House Resolution 75 passed unanimously in the House with a vote of 393-0 on March 14. Following the decision, Secretary of State John Kerry made a statement regarding the genocide designation.

“In my judgement, [ISIS] is responsible for genocide of groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” Kerry said. “[ISIS] is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions — in what it says, what it believes and what it does.”

In August of 2014, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Father Andre Y-Sebastian Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church, spearheaded the Peace, Love and Co-Existence Initiative, also called PLACE. The PLACE Initiative was launched as an ecumenical effort to acknowledge the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. PLACE brought together local leaders from the Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim faiths, all of whom collaborated together to create a common statement of purpose urging the United States government to act in bringing an end to the atrocities committed by ISIS. (File photo)

Fortenberry acknowledged the bipartisan and ecumenical cooperation in the passing of the legislation and praised the efforts of solidarity by all political parties in being able to set aside differences and properly address the atrocities committed by ISIS.

“At a time of deep political division in our nation, the House has spoken with one voice to properly recognize and condemn this genocide,” Fortenberry said. “The genocide resolution elevates international consciousness and confronts the scandal of silence and indifference about ISIS’ targeted and systematic destruction of these endangered communities. A bipartisan and ecumenical alliance has formed to confront ISIS’ barbaric onslaught.”

The designation came shortly after ISIS had attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run home in Yemen and killed 16 people, including four Missionary of Charity sisters. ISIS also captured Father Tom Uzhunnalil in the attack, who has yet to be released. Rumors circulated that Father Uzhunnalil was tortured and crucified on Good Friday, but they have not yet been confirmed.

Prior to the legislation’s passing, a coalition of several organizations, including the Knights of Colombus and the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group In Defense of Christians (IDC), compiled a report that was instrumental in the decision.

Kirsten Evans, executive director of IDC, recalled that in the weeks leading up to the designation, the State Department informed IDC and the Knights of Colombus that they were considering making a designation that the Yazidi community was experiencing genocide, but not the Christian community. The State Department claimed they didn’t have enough evidence to support a genocide designation for the Christian community in the Middle East, and this concerned Evans because she felt the U.S. government expressing more concern for one group over the other made the other a soft target.

It’s important that the global community is made aware of the fact that this is happening and how dire and extreme the situation is. If something isn’t done, we run the risk of having a Middle East without Christianity.”

In response, IDC and the Knights, along with the other organizations in the coalition, gathered evidence and compiled all of it into a 300-page report submitted to Secretary Kerry on March 9. The report chronicled all of the evidence the groups had found to date of the crime of genocide against the Christian communities under the control of ISIS.

A few days later, the resolution to recognize the genocide of several ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East, including Christians, passed unanimously in the House, setting a precedent for how the U.S. will approach foreign policy in the Middle East in the future.

“A designation like this colors, from here on out, the way the United States has to engage in problem-solving and any kind of intervention in the region,” Evans said. “The United States will never be able to target ISIS without also having on their radar a long-term strategy and commitment to the safety and longevity of these communities.”

Evans also stressed that the genocide of Christians in the Middle East is a dire situation that demands the attention of the global Christian community.

“Oftentimes in the western world, we forget that the early Church came from the Middle East,” Evans said. “All [Christians] have received their faith through a long lineage that traces itself back to the Middle East. It’s important that the global community is made aware of the fact that this is happening and how dire and extreme the situation is. If something isn’t done, we run the risk of having a Middle East without Christianity.”

Congressman Fortenberry, who had been pushing hard for the legislation to pass, commended Secretary Kerry and the State Department for making this important designation.

“The genocide against Christians, Yazidis and others is not only a grave injustice to these ancient faith communities — it is an assault on human dignity and on civilization itself. The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority,” Fortenberry said in a press statement. “[These groups] and others who have suffered grievous harm remain an essential part of the Middle East’s rich tapestry of religious and ethnic diversity. They now have new cause for hope.”