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“We must not break faith with them by ignoring their story,” Christian media analyst says.

ICC Note:

“The gathering of representatives of Copts, Assyrian-Chaldeans, Lebanese Christians and other Middle East Christians, along with Christian and secular American groups, all advocating for the rights of indigenous populations in the Middle East from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, is a game changer in how we view human rights in the region.”

By Maxime Myer-Smith

5/1/2011 Middle East (Jerusalem Post) – Amid the massive political upheavals in the Middle East, a ground-breaking conference held recently in Chicago issued an urgent appeal for Western Christians to not forget about the suffering endured by their sisters and brothers living under Shari’a law in the Muslim-majority countries of the region.

The one-day gathering on March 12, held under the theme of The Persecuted Church: Christian Believers in Peril in the Middle East, was sponsored by more than a dozen organizations, including local churches, proponents of religious freedom, and groups of indigenous Middle Eastern Christians now living in the US.

“This is an historic event,” said keynote speaker Dr. Walid Phares, author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.

“The gathering of representatives of Copts, Assyrian-Chaldeans, Lebanese Christians and other Middle East Christians, along with Christian and secular American groups, all advocating for the rights of indigenous populations in the Middle East from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, is a game changer in how we view human rights in the region. I call this event the ‘Chicago Initiative’ and wish to see it happening across the nation.”

Attendees of the conference were informed that hostility toward Christian minorities is an undeniable fact of life in Muslim countries and that governments in the Middle East have failed to protect indigenous Christians throughout the region. This problem has largely been ignored in the West because of a failure on the part of the media to cover the story, charged Phares.

The dearth of coverage on the plight of Mideast Christians translates into a lack of attention to the issue by American policymakers, who so far have failed to take measures to protect indigenous populations in the region even in those countries where the US has direct influence, Phares added.

“The Christian people of Iraq are under clear threat of annihilation,” Phares warned. “We intervened in the Balkans to protect Muslims. This is a similar situation.”

Juliana Taimoorazy, director of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, a group headquartered in Chicago which advocates for the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq, recounted how Muslim extremists in Iraq sent threatening letters to Christian families in the years following the US-led invasion in 2003.

“They offered three simple choices: To convert to Islam, to pay the jizya, or to leave,” she said.

“Initially, many refused to obey. This resulted in the acts of kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of our innocent men and women.”

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