BEIRUT — Over the weekend, from 12-13 November, the first Christians of the East Congress was held in Beirut. Organized by the Christian Front under the title “Christians of the East: Between Extinction and Role Restoration”, the conference covered the situation of Christians in the East and the importance of building unity between Christian peoples globally.
Representatives of political parties and institutions from different countries participated in the conference.
The conference was attended by Christian delegates from Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Europe, and the United States, representing the ethnic and denominational diversity of Christianity.
Head of the Syriac Maronite Union — Tur Levnon, Dr. Amin Iskandar stated that the conference aimed at opening up the Christians of Lebanon to the Christians of the region and establishing a joint Christian project of all regions, whether in Lebanon, Syria, or Iraq.
“The Christian Front brought together all the parties in the region and the countries of expatriation,” he added, indicating that the next step would be holding a global conference to ensure a more comprehensive solution for the Christians.
Concerning the formation of the Christian Front and its objectives, Iskandar declared that the Christian Front consists of Christian parties and is part of the Sovereign Front for Lebanon, which includes various Lebanese national parties working towards an independent Lebanon.
He stressed that the Christian Front works to protect Christians in Lebanon and the wider region to ensure their continued existence in their homeland.
Iskandar also noted that the Front does not aim to oppress or displace any other religious or ethnic group, but rather to coordinate with them to improve coexistence in Lebanon and the region.
Dr. Imad Chamoun, a member of the Christian Front leadership council, formally declared the foundation of the Christian Front to combat the growing existential threat to the continued Christian presence in Lebanon and elsewhere in the East. According to Dr. Chamoun, the Front was founded to unify the voices of the many eastern Christian groups in defense of religious, social, cultural, linguistic, and national rights. In the pursuit of these goals, the Front advocates for a federalized Lebanon. Eastern Christians deserve to live in communities with legal systems that reflect their cultural makeup, he added.
In Defense of Christians (IDA) Executive Director Richard Ghazal praised the event, saying that, “The inaugural conference of the Christian Front is a historic milestone for Christians in the Middle East.” He continued: “IDC remains committed to the protection, preservation and empowerment of Christians indigenous to the birthplace of the faith, and applauds the Christian Front as a native vehicle for the realization of this goal.”
Among the speakers was former Chair of US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), President of International Religious Freedom Secretariat (IRF), and member of the IDC Board of Advisors Nadine Maenza. “I was honored to virtually address the Christian Front conference in Lebanon that brought together Christians from around the Middle East,” said Maenza. “It is encouraging to see these diverse communities find unity in charting a way forward to ensure Christians can stay in their ancient homeland and be treated as equal citizens. It is important that we support their recommendations as they determine their own futures,” added Maenza.
International Coordinator for Syriac Cross / Schlomo for Relief and Development Sandra Korteweg-Vermeer, who attended the conference, highlighted the link between political outcomes and the humanitarian situation in the region. “As an international humanitarian aid organization we are not involved in politics, but we see the consequences of political decisions on a daily basis.”
“I was thankful to see all the Churches of the Middle East gathered together for this conference, all with the same conviction that only together can they guard their identity and the positive existence of Christians in the Middle East,” she added. “It reminded me of Isaiah 19:23-25, a gloryful prospect for Christians worldwide.
On Sunday, 13 November, the conference closed with a set of country-specific proposals aimed at protecting the safety and honor of Christians communities in the Middle East.
- Remove Nineveh Plains from the conflict between Baghdad and Erbil.
- Grant autonomy to the people of Nineveh Plains and the historical areas of the Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution.
- Improve Christian participation in the legislative, judicial, and executive authorities on the provincial and national level.
- Grant Christians in Iraq their full religious and national rights in accordance with all state and international covenants and agreements signed by Iraq, granting a special economic quota for Nineveh Plains
- Amending the Iraqi Personal Status Law in favor of approving articles related to the personal status of Christians.
- End the demographic change in the historic Christian towns and villages.
- Form a Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian security force under the name of “National Police” to maintain security in Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian areas.
- Activate the political solution in Syria with the full involvement of the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people.
- Constitutionally recognize the national identity of the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people and the Syriac language.
- Create a democratic, pluralistic, secular, and decentralized state with autonomous administrations in different regions as part of a federalized Syria.
- Abolition texts in the Syrian Constitution that perpetuates religious and racial discrimination, such as the following: “The religion of the state president is Islam”, and criminalize all discrimination practiced in the name of religion, ethnicity, or race.
- Lift the Iranian occupation of Lebanon by completing the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1559 and create Hezbollah-free zones of public facilities such as airports, harbors, and financial institutions.
- Generalize the successful experiences of some municipalities of energy savings.
- Form municipal police services to exercise communal self-defense.
- Activate the Christian resistance role in culture, language, and history
- Convert some military airports into civilian airports, as well as some maritime facilities, and revitalize the Beirut Port to help revive the economy.
- Create a Fund for Oriental Christian Opposition that connects the resident Christians with expatriates to ensure the continued presence of Christians in Lebanon.