ARCHON COMMANDER ANTHONY J. LIMBERAKIS
3rd Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom
The Persecution of Christians In The Holy Lands & Middle East Consequences and Solutions
(December 5, 2017 – 8:00 – 9:30 am)
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Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Your Eminences and Excellencies,
Distinguished Professors, Scholars, and Journalists,
Beloved Brother Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
With humility and with a profound sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Christ, I welcome you again and officially open this Third International Archon Religious Freedom Conference dedicated to:
‘Exploring Consequences and Seeking Solutions to the The Persecution of Christians In The Holy Lands & Middle East’
This grave subject is the raison d’etre of the Order of Saint Andrew, the restoration of the legal and human rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and by extension, of all the religious minorities of Turkey and the Holy Lands and Middle East.
Now in the twenty-sixth year of his profoundly historic and immensely consequential Patriarchy, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has led the way not only in interfaith and intercultural dialogue, but in advocating a theology for the health and well-being our our shared planet Earth. Indeed, he understands that the environmental destiny of our planetary home must be based on
“… the value and necessity of mutual respect, forgiveness, [and] love…” [Address by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the 2nd International Conference of Athens for Religious and Cultural Pluralism and for Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East; Athens, 29-31 October 2017.]
Yet despite his positive, constructive, and effective Patriarchal ministry, in the land of his birth – the nation of Turkey – His All-Holiness Bartholomew still faces discrimination and persecution, as there have been assassination attempts against his life, and there have been religiously motivated murders of members of the Christian minorities.
This is why His All-Holiness has such a heart for the suffering of the Christians of the Middle East and Africa. He has borne witness to their martyrdom in his own life and experience. He has seen the seizure and destruction of Churches and Holy Sites in his own country. And he endures daily and co-suffers the discrimination against religious minorities of all kinds. He understands the soul-ripping consequences of religious violence – as he has said with impassioned fervor:
“[A]ny homicide is a detestable act of fratricide! Any war is civil war! However, whenever they take place in the name of God, they constitute the ultimate blasphemy.”
Therefore, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America are proud to put forth this vital subject in an open forum, where we hope to explore the consequences of this persecution and search for solutions. We are grateful to all of you who are participating in this conference, for your input and your considered opinions. There are no pre-conceived solutions that we are waiting to spring upon this assembly. We are earnestly seeking real answers to these profoundly troubling questions.
We are all very well aware that the United States of America, founded as a safe harbor and sheltering rock against religious persecution, takes very seriously the religious freedom of all persons. Where there is even one who is not free to worship their Creator as their conscience dictates, then truly none is free. We are all created equal. We are all endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. What a privilege we have to be graced to be citizens of this great country! And how we wish that the very freedoms we so gratefully enjoy in this blessed Nation could be shared with all people of faith.
That is why we are here these days in our Nation’s Capital – to search together for solutions and come to terms with the persecution and martyrdom of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Their sacrifices cannot be and will not ever be forgotten. As they are bearing witness with their lives and with their blood, we must continually advocate for their very survival.
May the work that we engage these days in this Conference enlighten the world of their persecution and offer solutions for their well-being and survival.