NEW YORK – Open Doors, the California-based non-profit that has tracked Christian persecution for the past 25 years, points out that millions of Christians face interrogation, arrest, torture, and/or death because of their religious convictions and cultural or ethnic identification. The U.S. State Department reports that Christians face persecution in more than 60 countries with Pew Research noting that between 2007 and 2014, Christians have been targeted for harassment in more countries than any other religious group. Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed “profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East” during their May 2014 meeting in Jerusalem.
In response, the Third International Conference on Religious Freedom will be 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 is sponsored by the Order of St. Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Previous conferences were held in Brussels and Berlin.
Conference sessions include the “History of the Christian Church” focusing on the disappearance of Christians from Christianity’s birthplace, “Persecution of Christians and Possible Solutions,” “Freedoms of Religion and the Press,” and “Sacred Sites and Property Rights.” The conference will bring together top government officials, human rights activists, academics, and religious leaders. Among the participants will be 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), Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
While about 30 percent of the world’s population identifies as Christian, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination are directed at Christians.
“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. “The conference aims to shed light on this crisis confronting Christians in the Middle East.”
According to Open Doors, each year worldwide more than 3,800 Christians are killed for their faith, over 2,400 Christian churches and properties are destroyed, and over 9,200 forms of violence are committed against Christians. Ten years ago there were nearly one million Christians in Iraq with a large majority in Mosul. Today there are just a few dozen Christians in that city.
For a detailed schedule and a list of speakers: http://conference.archons.org/schedule
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