Since the Hungarian government convened the first International Conference on Christian Persecution in 2017, the event has doubled in size to 650 participants from over 40 countries.
"What brings us together is the cause of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and our search for the elements that bring about these dire situations for the most ancient Christian communities of the East,” Gewargis III, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, said at the conference.
The conference, meeting Nov. 26-28, has drawn many Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese Christian leaders, including Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Najeeb Michaeel, and Rev. Joseph Kassab, head of the Evangelical Community of Syria and Lebanon.
Off-the-record conversations were held on “day zero” of the conference Nov. 25 on the Islamic landscape in “a post-ISIS world,” and the role of NGOs in aiding persecuted communities.
Bishop and Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of Damascus Armash Nalbandian highlighted in his address that the targeted persecution of Christians is still a very current threat in Syria.
“Not even one month ago, a gunman shot dead Fr. Hovsep Bedoyan the head of the Armenian Catholic community in Syria, Qamishli, near the border of Turkey and his father, Abraham Bedoyan ... The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group,” Nalbandian said.
“The local media reported three bombings in Qamishli, which occurred the same day of the assassination, and were also claimed by ISIS, showed concern that militants were also coordinated attacks against Christians in the city,” he added.
Catholic speakers at the conference include Cardinal Peter Erdő, Primate of Hungary and Archbishop of Budapest; Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, former prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, apostolic nuncio to Ethiopia, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, and Archbishop Ephram Yousif Mansoor of Baghdad, who represented Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III Younan at the conference.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gave the plenary address to the conference. U.S. President Donald Trump also wrote a letter to the conference participants, which was read aloud by his assistant Joe Grogan.
The Hungarian and the U.S. governments agreed in November to jointly fund rebuilding projects in Qaraqosh, the largest city in Iraq with a Christian majority.
“Hungarians believe Christian values lead to peace and happiness and this is why our Constitution states that protection of Christianity is an obligation for the Hungarian state, it obligates us to protect Christian communities throughout the world suffering persecution,” Orban said.
“The Hungarians amount to 0.12% of the population of the world. Is there any point for a country of such a size to stand up for the protection of Christians? Our answer is yes,” the prime minister said.
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Vice President Viktor Hamm reminded the conference that the Hungarian people themselves suffered Christian persecution in the not too distant past under Soviet occupation.
Hamm himself was born in a Soviet labor camp in what is now northwest Russia. “My grandfather was executed by the Soviet regime. My father spent years in the gulags,” he said.