A broad-based, inter-denominational, cross-cultural coalition pressed for concrete policy solutions to the existential threats facing the Middle East Christians at In Defense of Christians (IDC) National Leadership Conference and Solidarity Dinner, co-sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The two-day gathering, which brought together prominent faith leaders and human rights advocates from across the U.S., called for a permanent policy of official U.S. remembrance of the Armenian Genocide - as part of a series of legislative priorities shared during more than 100 Congressional meetings, ANCA reported.
“IDC is America’s answer to a century of indifference. The organization we needed to give voice to our values; to demand and to deliver a place at the policy-making table for religious freedom. To do the work of the Lord in the language of Washington: legislation, appropriations, and policy.” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian in remarks delivered at the sixth annual Solidarity Dinner on September 10th. He went on to voice support for Republic of Artsakh freedom and to demand an end to U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial.
The Solidarity Dinner featured remarks by U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, who stressed the Administration’s commitment to defending religious freedom, noting that the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, held in July, was the largest ever hosted by the State Department.
Among IDC’s 2019 Congressional Champions honored during the National Leadership Conference were Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Jackie Speier (D-CA), who, along with prior honoree Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), offered poignant remarks about the valuable efforts of the IDC.
“I am proud to be an Armenian. But I am pained to say that even though 1.5 million Armenians were killed during WWI by the Turks, the first genocide of the 20th Century, that our Congress has not seen fit, even now, a hundred years plus later, to recognize that horrific effort,” said Rep. Speier.
The invocation at the Solidarity Dinner was given by His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S., who offered a prayers for the work of IDC.
One the second day of the conference, Hamparian shared Armenian American policy priorities during a panel discussion which included remarks by Tonia Khouri, IDC Vice President; Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel, President & CEO of American Task Force for Lebanon; Sara Salama, Legal Advisor for Coptic Orphans; Jeremy P. Barker, Senior Program Officer and Director of the Middle East Action Team for the Religious Freedom Institute; and Alexis Moukarzel, a member of the IDC Board of Advisers. Congressional remarks were offered by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), who underscored his support for pending Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.296). ANCA Western Region Executive Director Armen Sahakyan and Hamparian were among the advocacy group leaders which then visited with over one hundred Congressional offices in support of IDC priorities.