Your Holiness, Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Thank you for joining us here today. The occasion is marked, of course, by both urgency and sadness following recent events in the Middle East. But it is also an occasion for us to be hopeful, for though our brothers and sisters far away suffer much for their Christian faith, we are in solidarity with them this day. I believe much good will come from this Summit and ask you to carry forward today’s work when this historic gathering has concluded.
We have watched of late as extremists across the world have terrorized the INNOCENT, from my homeland, Nigeria, to the home of my ancestors, Lebanon. In Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, Christianity is attacked in its very birthplace. And the world is silent – silent in the face of terrorism and barbarism. These are the enemies of civilization, the enemies of people of good will in every land and of every creed, the enemies of freedom and human rights. They are the enemies of reason itself. And as Christians, we understand that human reason which naturally condemns violence in a special way: for that faculty of reason was given us by our Creator, as a reflection of His Truth. It is not a coincidence that these extremists, who do violence to order, to justice, and to truth, target those of their neighbors who bear Christ’s name. We are here today to discuss the violence against the followers of Christ in the world – in particular in the Middle East, the descendants of the first Christians who today are targeted for their faith, Christians who have been living in this land centuries before even the arrival of Islam and have been living in peace and harmony. Over the last couple of centuries, a war of Islamist extremism was declared to exterminate the Christians from their land of origin.
As the leader of Al Qaeda says in the video we have seen here tonight, “Our enemy is the cross.” What he added immediately after revealed the truth I speak of here: “Our enemy is the cross and the bearer of the cross is America.” Now, America’s government sometimes might be slow to react. Its people are not. We believe that its people stand not only against the terrorists, but with the Christians of the Middle East.
Our Moslem brothers and sisters in the Middle East fear extremism as much as we do and complain that terrorists have hijacked their religion. That is not enough. They must be aware that if Christians are to be exterminated today, tomorrow it will be their turn. So, they have to take immediate action by helping to stop the flow of funds and arms to those criminals to be able to stop their crimes and expansion.
The West must no longer be reluctant – or, perhaps I should say, ashamed – to protect Christians. Let’s face it: today, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and the Christian countries do nothing about it. While scores of churches are burned to the ground in Egypt, the West is silent. While Syrians are crucified and beheaded simply because they are Christian, the West is silent. While the Christians of Iraq are driven from their homes and cling to ancient monasteries in the mountains without food and water, the West is silent.
The Christian is told to turn the other cheek, to endure offense with the humility of Christ. We are taught that this is a Christian virtue. But a Christian has other duties as well. When one sees harm done to the defenseless, to women and children, he must defend them. There is no group more vulnerable and more persecuted today than the Christians of the Middle East.
Tomorrow is September 11. For as long as freedom perseveres, that day will be remembered. On that date in 2001, America was attacked. But the target was the whole civilized and free world, people of all religions, all believers in freedom, all believers in human rights, all believers in civilization, what America represents. That is why America was chosen. This is why I have invited to America the leaders of ancient Christian communities – to come to this center of freedom. To have their voices heard, to rally America’s great people to action in order to save Christianity where Christianity was born. For our brothers and sisters in the Middle East today, the struggle is not merely for freedom, but for survival. America has led before. It can do so again.
Two decades ago, America, a predominantly Christian nation, came to the defense of Muslims in Europe. It did so out of the very best attributes of America, to protect the weak, to promote peace, to stop the eradication of a helpless people in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
America is still a beacon of freedom across the world, and America’s great people must awaken to what is happening in the Middle East. We in this room must break this terrible silence – a silence that only invites more violence. Those who attacked America continue to attack Christians, for they are, in the mind of the extremist, one and the same. This is the evil that we face – together.
Christianity can and must survive in the Middle East. I believe this, and with the Grace of God and the help of all of you here tonight, I make a solemn promise that my colleagues and I will do everything in our power to support the survival of Christianity in its place of birth. I ask you to join me in this great pursuit.