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Introduction of the Vice President of the United States Mike Pence

Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

In Defense of Christians Dinner
JW Marriott Hotel, Washington, D.C.
October 25, 2017

Years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Yad Vashem with an interfaith delegation of religious leaders. I was walking through its museum with a rabbi I had gotten to know and together we entered a room honoring all the Jewish communities that had been destroyed by the Nazis and that today no longer exist. Suddenly the rabbi stopped and pointed to the name of a town. “That is where my family was from,” he said. “Now they are all gone.” The agonized look on his face expressed more strongly than words ever could his determination of “Never again!”

But despite the efforts of so many, the world witnesses again and again the crimes against humanity that we now describe as genocide. Today, that word is rightly applied to what is happening to Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

Many have answered the call of Scripture: “Rescue those being led to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Prov. 24:11).

And many have been saved.

But today we face another challenge: to avoid the possibility of a generation of Christians who look at a map of the Middle East and see only places from which the Christian communities have vanished and where we can only say, “Now they are all gone.”

Government and civil society must find ways to assure that this will not happen.

100 years ago, as Christianity stood on the brink of collapse because of Ottoman persecution, the United States government provided $25 million worth of aid in Armenia and throughout the Middle East. The American people provided an additional $91 million. That money was provided, as its public campaign stated, “lest they perish.”

America made helping victims of genocide a priority again after the Holocaust and in Darfur as well.

Saving victims of genocide reflects the wisdom of the great Lebanese Christian statesman, Charles Malik. He said, “You may win every battle, but if you lose the war of ideas, you will have lost the war. You may lose every battle, but if you win the war of ideas, you will have won the war.” His words are more timely today than ever for the Middle East.

If Christians are eliminated from the Middle East, whose ideas win?

And what is this war of ideas we are engaged in?

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. summed it up well 60 years ago when he said, “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.” Toward the end of his life, he further reminded us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This is the witness made by generations of Christians in the Middle East who have had the courage to love even those who would do them harm.

Tonight, let us rededicate ourselves to the defense of our brothers and sisters in the faith — and to defending them in a Christian way with the ethics of love.

I believe no world leader better understands what is at stake in the great war of ideas gripping the Middle East today than our keynote speaker.

Scripture tells us that those who lead many to righteousness shall “shine like the stars forever.” (Dan. 12:3).

There has never been a more righteous cause than the defense of those helpless ones being led to slaughter.

There are many such stars in this room tonight. Among those shining brightest is our speaker.

Finally a word of thanks. We are grateful that just last evening American government involvement was able to stop the planned battle for Teleskof - a town in Nineveh recently liberated from Isis and rebuilt with a $2 million dollar grant from the government of Hungary. The destruction of that town could have been, in a very real way, the beginning of the end of Christianity in Iraq. There are so few of these towns left—each one of them is precious.  While the peace is fragile, we are grateful for our government's attention to this issue.

Tonight we would ask the Vice President to convey to the President our gratitude for the administration’s action.

Please join me in welcoming a champion in defense of Christians in the Middle East — the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence.