Vice President Mike Pence and other officials from US government assured delegates from 130 countries that Americans will do more to protect Christian victims of persecution and genocide yesterday (Thursday, May 11, 2017).
Their promises were warmly received by delegates who responded with standing ovations to Pence who addressed the delegates as “My brothers and sisters.”
Among government officials addressing the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians were Knox Thames from the State Department and legislators including Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), and Representative Randy Hultgren (R-Illinois).
Friday’s sessions opened with a moving call from Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl to “end the conspiracy of silence” about the Christian genocide now taking place in the Middle East. He pleaded with media and 600 delegates to “collectively raise our voices” and not allow the systematic murder and rape of Christians to continue unreported and unprotested.
Many delegates were moved to tears by the assurances of American officials that they would do more. “It was an amazing speech,” said Nepali Christian leader Charles Mendies from Kathmandu, “he spoke very well—I’m impressed that the US government is wanting to do more.”
While most of the delegates, like Mendies, were impressed by the promises, some were more cynical. Armenian Archbishop Vicken Aykazian was jaded in his response to Vice President Pence, “It’s good but we’ve been hearing this for years. We’ll see. This new administration has a chance to act for a new generation. My message is simple:
“Please. Please. Please. America, stop the atrocities against us. This genocide in Iraq, Turkey and Iran has been going on for 150 years. Don’t gaze on and watch us die again like the first time—1.5 million of us died from 1915-1917 while the civilized world just looked on and did nothing.
“Now, it is happening again. Turkey is part of NATO. Americans should write their congressmen and tell them to use their influence in the Middle East to stop the slaughter of Christians.” Bishop Aykazian is scheduled as a plenary speaker by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, sponsor of the event.
“The first thing they can do,” adds Kristen Wright of Open Doors, “is appoint the missing Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom. There is a short list now. We’re past the100-day mark in the Trump administration. We need to see this in place now.
“This person reports to the Secretary of State and has great influence. Three-fourths of the world’s people are living in religious oppression. This is critical.”
The Graham organization has one message at this event. “Christians are now one of the most victimized groups in the world,” repeats spokesman Todd Shearer, “215 million Christians experience very high or extreme persecution in 50 countries.”
The flood-lighted meetings are being held in secret behind closed doors. The indigenous leaders are meeting for the first-time ever to plan a strategic, global response in the glamorous ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel.
Between speakers, survivors and victims of persecution are re-telling their stories and testimonies.
The meetings end Saturday, May 13. The emphasis of the conference is on developing answers to the question, “How should Christians love their enemies and respond to genocide and persecution around the world?”