CitizensGo and Mas Libres and co-sponsor In Defense of Christians (IDC) launched on April 28, 2016 the three-day “#WeAreN2016” conference at the United Nations (UN), featuring both human rights experts and victims genocide and atrocities and expulsion suffered by Christians and other religious minorities in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and other countries.
The program started with a panel discussion at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber of the United Nations sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN.
IDC Board Member Dr. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, spoke on the first panel about protecting victims of persecution and fostering religious freedom worldwide. Dr. Farr, recipient of IDC’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award for his tireless work in human rights, spoke about worst humanitarian crisis since World War II that is currently unfolding in the Middle East.
He described the dire conditions of the Christians and other religious minorities who remain in Iraq and Syria,unable to work, provide for their families, and suffering the debilitating effects of uncertainty about the future.
“Those of us with the resources and capacity must do something. Think of this as a field hospital, we must act to ensure the patient has a way to live,” Dr. Farr said. He added “the stakes involve the very survival of Christianity and pluralism in Iraq and Syria. To ensure their survival, the international community must consider the establishment of an autonomous, multi-religious, multi-cultural and mutli-ethnic safe zone.” He said that such a zone would provide a haven to minorities who are not settled or safe, and if successful would provide a model of pluralism for the region.
The parents of Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was taken hostage by ISIS and subsequently killed, shared how their daughter had dedicated herself to telling the world about the suffering of the people of Syria.
IDC Executive Director Kirsten Evans chaired the third panel on Christian and Yazidi women and girls; sexual victims of crimes against humanity. A 15-year-old Yazidi girl, who was in ISIS captivity for 6 months, shared her story. Samia was just 13 years old when she was in captivity. “They raped and violated me and the girls who were with me,” Samia said. “During the 6 months in captivity, I saw horrible things happen to me and the other children. They raped girls as young as 7 and 8 years of age. Their mothers were killed because they were older. “
The conference continues throughout Friday April 29th and Saturday April 30th. For more information on the conference visit wearen.org.