The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, in partnership with Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project, is co-hosting the International Conference on Christian Response to Persecution. The conference, a major component of the first systematic global investigation of the persecution of Christians, will take place at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome on Dec. 10-12.
The investigation, a project called “Under Caesar’s Sword,” has dispersed a team of 14 researchers, representing the world’s leading scholars of Christianity in their respective regions, around the world to some 100 beleaguered Christian communities in more than 30 countries including China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and India. Their findings will be publicized in the major international conference in Rome.
Organizations that monitor human rights violations are widely in agreement that Christians constitute the world’s most widely persecuted religion. A recent report of The Pew Research Center found that between June 2006 and December 2012, Christians faced harassment and intimidation in 151 countries, more than any other religious group.
According to Daniel Philpott, professor of political science and peace studies at Notre Dame and an organizer of the project, this persecution, despite being one of the largest classes of human rights violations in the world today, is insufficiently reported in the mainstream media and the human rights community.
“That’s why we’re particularly pleased that our Rome conference is shaping up to be more robust than we ever imagined,” said Philpott. “We have been floored by the number of acceptances of our invitations from Christian leaders from all over the world, both at the top of their respective hierarchies and at the ground level, where there are powerful witnesses.”
The conference will feature plenary speakers from among the world’s most respected advocates of religious freedom. Its goal is to draw public attention to the plight of persecuted Christian communities, promote cooperation among Christian churches in assisting these communities, and encourage global solidarity with them.
In addition to documenting the persecution undergone by Christian communities, the researchers hope to study how the communities respond to it, whether simply by fleeing, forgiving, resisting non-violently or maneuvering in politics and diplomacy. “Through all of this, we hope to show solidarity with the world’s persecuted Christians, and learn to become better advocates for them,” Philpott said.
“Our participation in ‘Under Caesar’s Sword’ is one way of living out Notre Dame’s Catholic mission,” Philpott said. “Being in solidarity with Christians who are giving the most profound witness imaginable is the quintessence of what the Church should be.”