Rai also pointed out that the West’s approach to refugees could be more helpful. While he emphasized that Christians want to go back to their countries, he questioned rhetoric from nations that say that “refugees should be allowed to live in dignity wherever they may be, while those nations have closed their borders and prevented them from entering into their countries.”
“Where is the human dignity of all that? If the family is living under a tent and you’ve given them a meal, do you think that’s enough for their human dignity to be guarded?” he asked.
Patriarch John X echoed many of Rai’s concerns, especially the ability of Christians to have the “right to express on our destiny and our own plight.” He stressed that the Christian message is one of peace, of truth, and of the Good News: “The Church is the beacon of truth in this agitated world and we will continue to witness to that truth even if we are hanged on the Cross.”
In addition to calling for the end of war, the Greek Orthodox patriarch also stressed the necessity for Middle Eastern Christians to be involved in finding the solution to the problems they face – to be partners in finding peace. “Sometimes the media may portray us in a negative way, not necessarily in the way that we would have us portrayed,” he said, adding that “ if we are talking about our destiny in our land, we have something to say.”
One of the solutions Christians of the Middle East want, he stressed, is the ability to “seek unity of our own country” and rebuild their lives in their own homelands.
“We call all Christians and Muslims to work together for the well-being of their country.”
Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth and an Iraqi Christian, offered a statement as a member of the audience, saying that many Christians from the region “are lost in-between” political and military struggles of actors within the region and from overseas.
She urged Americans to consider the long history of Christianity in the Middle East, where it has thrived since the first century, and asked if “we expect it will be easy for people to leave their land?” when proposing solutions that require resettlement into new areas or permanent residency in the West.
She called for increased awareness and education on Middle Eastern Christianity among the American people, and advocated for all to seek permanent peace.