“Tossing Christians under the bus is not a strategy,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, at “In Defense of Christians” Press Conference Launching its 2016 Advocacy Convention
WASHINGTON—Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian slammed U.S. policy on Middle East Christians as shortsighted, irresponsible and reckless, calling for a new strategy based on fundamental American values, at the opening press conference of the 2016 In Defense of Christians (IDC) National Advocacy Convention.
“Sadly, in place of a truly American approach, successive U.S. Administrations have pursued policies imposed by foreign interests; allowed vetoes exercised by corrupt dictators; even enforced gag-rules silencing our moral voice as a nation,” said Hamparian. He went to offer three Armenian examples of failed U.S. policies, including “U.S. complicity in Turkey’s obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide; a U.S. green light on Turkey’s destabilizing offensives into northern Syria; and U.S. backing for a ‘peace plan’ that would force Christian Nagorno Karabakh under the rule of an Azerbaijani dictatorship.”
Hamparian then praised In Defense of Christians for its progress “against influential interests and the institutional inertia of more than a century of inaction,” citing the unanimous passage of H.Con.Res. 75, spearheaded by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), which condemned ISIS actions against Christians and minorities as ‘genocide’; a joint Knights of Columbus / IDC report detailing the genocidal campaign against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East; and the ongoing advocacy efforts defending the rights and safety of Christian communities in the region.
He went on to share the ANCA’s support for the policy recommendations being advanced during the IDC convention:
- Securing a truthful and just international resolution to Turkey’s still unpunished crime of genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and other Christians through passage of H.Res.154.
- Establishing a province for the indigenous Christians (Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac) and other peoples of the Nineveh Plain region.
- Generating U.S. support for security and stability in Lebanon and relief from the Syrian refugee crisis (including those who have reached Armenia).
- Encouraging reform of the legal regulations regarding the rebuilding and construction of churches in Egypt.
“These issues are all tied to one another,” explained Hamparian. “Progress on one reinforces progress on all. Justice for one represents a step toward justice for all.”
The two-hour IDC press conference highlighted insights by Representative David Trott (R-MI); Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF); Robert Nicholson, Executive Director of the Philos Project; Alexis Moukarzel, former Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik, Lebanon; Andrew Doran, journalist and expert on religious persecution in the Middle East; and IDC Executive Director Kirsten Evans.
On Wednesday evening, IDC Convention participants gathered at the historic Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Washington, DC for an ecumenical prayer service for Christians in the Middle East. Celebrants included Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre, His Eminence Oshagan Choloyan, Archbishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Most Reverend Gregory Mansour and the Most Reverend Abdallah Elias Zaidan, both Bishops of the Maronite Catholic Church, the Reverend Canon Alistair MacDonald-Radcliff of the Anglican Church, the Very Reverend Father Gabriel Adde of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Very Reverend Archdeacon William Toma of the Assyrian Church of the East, the Reverend Andre-Sebastian Mahanna of the Maronite Catholic Church and the Very Reverend Father Joseph Rahal of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.
The conference will continue on Thursday with a National Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, where participants will meet with Members of Congress to highlight the plight of Christians and other minorities across the Middle East. That evening, a formal dinner will be held at the Capitol Hill Club that will feature addresses from senior federal policymakers. The last day of the conference (September 9) will feature a policy and awareness symposium at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, followed that evening by the premiere of the movie “Our Last Stand” – a documentary on the plight of Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.