NEW YORK — This week’s #WeAreN2016 Congress aims to call on the world to stop the persecution of Christians and other minorities. Victims of persecution and leaders from around the world will speak about the need for action in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere.
“Christians account for 80 percent of persecuted minorities,” the congress website said. “They are victims of the deliberate infliction of conditions of life that are calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. They are being murdered, beheaded, crucified, beaten, extorted, abducted, and tortured.”
The congress cited other atrocities such as enslavement, forcible conversion to Islam, and sexual violence against women and girls.
The congress’ events will take place April 28-30 at several New York City venues. The Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations is among the conference sponsors, as is the group In Defense of Christians.
The congress was organized by the citizen activism website CitizenGo and the Spain-based religious liberty advocacy group MasLibres.
The April 28 events will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council Chamber.
Opening remarks will come from Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who heads the Holy See’s permanent observer mission, and Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, who is the permanent observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
They will be followed by a panel discussion on protecting victims of persecution and fostering religious freedom around the world. Auza will chair the panel.
Panel members include Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; Lars Adaktusson, Swedish member of the European Parliament; and Dr. Thomas F. Farr, who was the first director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Religious Freedom.
Ignacio Arsuago, president of CitizenGO, will chair a panel about mass atrocities, the exodus of Christians, and those who have suffered due to the Islamic State group.
Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri of Kafanchan, Nigeria will be a panelist, as will Sister Maria de Guadalupe, a missionary in Syria, and Father Douglas Al-Bazi, a Chaldean Catholic priest who was kidnapped by the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Carl and Marsha Mueller will also speak. They are the parents of aid work Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped by the Islamic State group in Syria and killed.
Another panel will discuss Christian and Yazidi women as sexual victims of crimes against humanity. Panelists include a Yazidi who was kidnaped by the Islamic State group.
On April 29, at 10 a.m., backers of the #WeAreN2016 petition will deliver it to the U.N. Secretary General. The petition calls on the international community to recognize the nature of the systematic attacks on Christians and other religious minorities.
It also calls on the international community to commit itself to protect them according to international law and previous U.N. resolutions.
That evening, the documentary “Insh Alla—Blood of the Martyrs” will premiere at the Roosevelt Hotel. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede the 7:30 p.m. showing. The movie is produced by MasLibres and CitizenGo.
On April 30, the final day of the congress will be hosted at the Roosevelt Hotel from 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
The daughter and husband of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who faces a death sentence in Pakistan for violating its strict blasphemy law, will speak at the gathering. They will be joined by Syrian missionaries, Fr. Al-Bazi, and Bishop Bagobiri.
Other speakers include Ignacio Arsuaga, president of CitizenGo; Toufic Baaklini, president of In Defense of Christians; and Drew Bowling, communications and policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry(R-Neb.), the congressman who introduced a House resolution against the genocide of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
Additional information and registration are available at the site www.wearen.org. All registration fees will support the witnesses of persecution who speak at the conference.