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The IDC Summit for Middle Eastern Christians, held in Washington, D.C. this week, had many important moments. The most frustrating of these was the keynote address at the Gala Solidarity Dinner. The keynote was given by Senator Ted Cruz — or, should I say, he attempted to deliver one.
As someone who was there for the entire summit and gala dinner, let me share with you what I saw and heard.
As the senator came to the stage, he was greeted with warm applause. However, it was all downhill from there. Instead of speaking about Christian persecution, the topic which delegates traveled from around the world to address, the senator brought up the 1948 creation of the state of Israel and said that Israel was by far the best ally of every Christian.
This caused a strong negative response from the audience, whose families are in the Middle East, where Palestinian Christians have suffered greatly this past year in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The more Senator Cruz spoke about this issue, the louder the crowd of 800-plus dinner guests shouted: “Speak about the Christian persecution! That is why we came! We know of the Israeli difficulties, but this is not why we are here.” Others shouted, “We are not anti-Semitic. We are here to save the Christians.”
The good senator continued to speak into the uproar, and then made a final statement to the audience, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”
If I had not been there myself, I would have a difficult time understanding what actually transpired. It was not just a band of a few politically motivated people who were trying to take advantage of the situation. Hundreds of gala attendees were shouting at the top of their lungs for the senator to change the subject or to leave — and he did the latter.
Now, I do not agree with the methods of those who shouted down a sitting United States Senator, calling on him to leave the stage. But I also do not understand why the good senator was not prepared to address such a distinguished body of clergy and lay people from around the world on the topic of Christian genocide, or why he spoke with such insensitivity.
Up to this point, the Summit had been a success. Remember: it was a diverse group of Christians coming together from many countries. The organizers deserve our utmost respect for a job well done. I pray it is only the first of many more such events.
My prayer, however, is that the people they invite to speak do their homework first.
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