Hellenic American Leadership Council
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Chicago, Illinois 60606
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HALC is launching a petition to protect the fundamental human right of religious freedom for minorities in the greater Middle East, and we need your help to reach our goal.
Under the White House rules, if we get 25,000 signatures, the White House will have to issue an official response.
Why is HALC launching this petition? As Americans go about their winter rituals of holiday shopping, mall Santas, lighting Christmas trees and menorahs and otherwise enjoying the season, it’s easy to forget that in other parts of the world, the holiday season brings with it renewed fears of persecution, intimidation, and even death.
Robert Kennedy once wrote that “ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.” Here, citizens can choose to worship any religion they want or no religion at all without fear that the government or their fellow citizens will infringe on that right. In other parts of the world, unfortunately, it’s a much different story.
Our petition asks the administration to reiterate America’s support for the religious freedom of all religious minorities, but we do want to draw attention to the plight of Christian minorities in the greater Middle East. Why is that the focus of HALC’s campaign?
Two stories out of the crisis in Syria highlight the importance of protecting religious minorities especially those in war-torn areas of the greater Middle East.
Reverend Basilios Nassar was a 30 year old Greek Orthodox priest in Syria. By all accounts, he was an utterly selfless and kind person with a love of Byzantine music and community involvement. In January, as the violence in Syria darkened another day, he received word that one of his parishioners had been shot. Rev. Nassar rushed to his aid, only to be be gunned down himself.
In October, the body of Rev. Fadi Jamil Haddad, pastor of St. Elias Church, outside Damascus, was dumped in the Jaramana district of Damascaus, a week after he was kidnapped. According to news reports, Rev. Haddad had been “horribly tortured.”
Across Syria, Christian activists are being killed and religious institutions are being targeted by car bombs and government crackdowns.
In other countries, religious minorities face the daily indignity of being unable to worship in a free and full manner. For example, the Turkish government refuses to reopen the doors of Halki Seminary so that new Greek Orthodox clergy can be trained. In occupied Cyprus, Greek Orthodox and Maronite communities cannot freely hold services without the possibility of Turkish intervention overshadowing their ceremonies. In Egypt, Coptic Christians are fleeing that country and seeking asylum in the U.S. in record numbers.
Yesterday was international Human Rights Day, a day when millions around the world reflected on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of that Declaration reaffirms the fundamental human right to practice religious without fear of persecution or reprisal:
- Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
It is in the spirit of that Declaration that we ask you to join in our call for the protection of religious minorities, especially those Christian minorities that live in fear in the greater Middle East. No person, regardless of their faith, should fear intimidation or death because of their faith. With your help, we can send a message of peace and support to all religious minorities this Christmas.
You can sign the official White House petition here:Back to top