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Church leaders, lawmakers meet to advocate for Mideast Christians

A historic ecumenical and bipartisan summit held in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9-11 to advocate for the safety of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East drew 1,200 people from 24 states and 14 countries and included a meeting of Christian patriarchs with President Barack Obama.

Organized by the new nonprofit advocacy group In Defense of Christians, the “Protecting and Preserving Christianity Where it All Began” conference included the participation of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, five Christian patriarchs representing churches of the Middle East and 17 House and Senate members.

The Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs, among them Maronite Catholic Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi of Antioch, met with President Obama and National Security Advisor Susan Rice at the White House.

Other events included an ecumenical prayer service, a meeting with lawmakers at Capitol Hill and talks at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

“The participants positively addressed the problems of the Islamic State (ISIS) without attacking Islam and shared hope for unity and peace among Muslims, Jews, Christians and all other religious, ethnic and cultural groups in the Middle East,” said Father Andre-Sebastian Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Church in Lakewood, Colo., and director of the Office of Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon in the United States, who was an organizer of the event.

The leaders and attendees left with a newfound sense of solidarity and strengthened resolve, organizers said.

“We are delighted by the outcome,” Andrew Doran, IDC executive director, said in a statement. “This event, conceived just five months ago, was described by one of the attendees as ‘a major logistical miracle’ and I agree.”

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Sign the PLACE (Peace, Love and Co-Existence) petition, which asks President Obama to work through diplomatic channels to stop the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, here: http://archden.org/prayer-peace/



Roxanne King
Roxanne King
Roxanne King is the former editor of the Denver Catholic Register and a freelance writer in the Denver area.

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