CONTACT: Joseph Cella, 703-286-9677
firstname.lastname@example.org – September 2014
Washington – In Defense of Christians President Toufic Baaklini issued the following statement in response to the disruption at IDC’s Inaugural Summit Gala Dinner last evening:
“In 1915, a German army officer named Armin Wegner… began to document a genocide that was taking place against Armenians. Over one million people, eradicated, marched into the desert, and murdered. Armin Wegner smuggled photos out at great risk to himself, to show the documented genocide that was taking place. In 1933 in Germany, Wegner became the only German author to publicly write an open letter in condemnation of what he saw coming down the road. For this, he was imprisoned in a concentration camp. The title of the letter was, In Defense of the Jews.”
“This was the story IDC’s Executive Director, Andrew Doran, told in tears about the inspiration for the name ‘In Defense of Christians.’ The organization was founded to stand in solidarity with the Christian communities of the Middle East who are even now facing systematic genocide. Doran made these remarks after Senator Cruz abruptly left the stage during his keynote address.
“Last night, over 1,000 people gathered from over 24 states and a dozen countries to stand in solidarity with the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. On Tuesday night, an ecumenical gathering of Christian leaders opened IDC’s three-day Inaugural Summit with a call for unity with all minorities of the Middle East. The heads of the major Churches of the Middle East—the Maronite Patriarch, the Armenian Orthodox Catholicos, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch, the Representative of the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch, the Representative of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, the Representative of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, the Representatives of the Assyrian Church of the East, and the representatives of the Protestant Churches—all came together to support Christians suffering across the region. It is the first gathering ever of the Eastern Patriarchs in the United States.
“In last night’s Solidarity Gala Dinner, Senator Cruz chose to stand against the small and vocal minority of attendees who disagree with his views on Israel rather than standing with the vast majority of those who attended the gala and support both Israel and the Middle East’s Christians.
“Cruz said in his remarks: ‘Today we are gathered at a time of extraordinary challenge. Tonight we are all united In Defense of Christians. Tonight we are all united In Defense of Jews.” His statement was immediately met with a full round of applause.
“Yesterday, 17 Republican and Democratic Senators and Representatives addressed this same audience, referring to peace and unity with Muslims and Jews—themes expressed throughout the conference with the resounding support of those present.
“Senator Cruz was not ‘booed off stage’ last night,” Baaklini said. “He was asked to focus on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East under the theme of Religious Freedom and Human Dignity. Some participants inappropriately shouted, ‘Talk about the Christians!’ when Cruz refused to do so. Sadly, there was a small but vocal anti-Israel element in the room. Those individuals do not represent the views of IDC. In fact, there were many more people shouting down the hecklers than there were hecklers. The hecklers who did not remove themselves were removed by security.
“Senator Cruz abruptly ended his remarks accusing some participants of being ‘consumed with hate.’ That was as unfortunate as the inappropriate reaction by a small number of attendees.
“IDC regrets that last night’s event, the only deviation from unity of the entire Summit, was briefly politicized and that some were discourteous. The work of this summit, however, remains vital. All the leaders present resumed the call to unity undeterred on Thursday. The work to protect and preserve Christianity in the Middle East will continue, despite efforts to derail this work.
As Nina Shea, who introduced Cruz later said, “We will not agree on territorial disputes, but we stand united against religious persecution regardless of the religion.”