An email press release for In Defense of Christians (IDC), an organization that convened a three-day summit in Washington D.C. reportedly dedicated to bringing awareness to the persecution of Christians in the MidEast, states that five patriarchs from the conference–many of whom have been supporters of Hezbollah–met with President Obama at the White House just hours after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was booed during his keynote address for his public support of Israel.
“For the first time in history, five Christian Patriarchs representing Christian communities in the Middle East visited the White House to discuss the protection of Christians in the Middle East with President Obama and National Security Advisor Susan Rice,” the press release sent from IDC spokesperson Joseph Cella states.
“We want to thank President Obama at this critical moment in history for meeting with the representatives of these Christian communities from the Middle East who face suffering and hardship for professing their religious beliefs,” said IDC president Toufic Baaklini.
The leaders attending the meeting with Obama were Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Raï; Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorius III Laham; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II; Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Yonan; Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia Aram I Keshishian; Most Reverend Metropolitan Joseph Al-Zehlaoui, official representative of Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X; Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria; and Bishop Emeritus of Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle Ibrahim, Ibrahim.
As Breitbart News reported earlier Thursday, since this incident involving Cruz, funding for the IDC summit has been revealed to have come from Gilbert Chagoury, who pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009. Additionally, some of the Christian leaders present and featured at the conference–and who later met with Obama–are supporters of Hezbollah.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Rai, who was also scheduled to speak during the keynote time slot, created controversy in May when he was criticized by two pro-Hezbollah newspapers for traveling to Jerusalem to meet Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit to the Holy Land.
In response to the criticism, Rai said he was only going to Jerusalem to meet the Pope and would not meet Israeli leaders, stating he was “aware that Israel is an enemy state that is occupying Lebanese territory.”
Rai stated earlier in 2011, “Everyone says: why is Hezbollah carrying arms? We responded that the international community did not exert pressure on Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory.”
“As long as there is an occupied Lebanese territory, Hezbollah will maintain that it wants to carry arms in defense of its land,” Rai added. “What will we say to it then? Isn’t it [Hezbollah] right?”
Rai’s comments were subsequently praised by Hezbollah.
Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Aphrem was observed to have posted photos on his Facebook page earlier this month with a “high level delegation from Hezbollah.”
Similarly, Patriarch Laham in 2010 charged that a “Zionist conspiracy against Islam” is responsible for al- Qaeda attacks on Iraqi Christians.
“I believe it is necessary to deeply examine fundamentalism…and terrorism that are masked by religion, along with violence and disturbances against Christians here and there and on an increasing level,” the patriarch said. “All this behavior has nothing to do with Islam.”
“But it is actually a conspiracy planned by Zionism and some Christians with Zionist orientations, and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam,” Laham said.
Laham had also caused “a great embarrassment to Rome” in 2012 when he issued a welcoming message in 2012 to Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of the pope’s visit to Lebanon, and included in the message a plea for the Holy See to recognize the State of Palestine.
A prominent French bishop also accused Laham in 2013 of “scheming with President Bashar al-Assad to block a planned Vatican peace visit to Syria by Catholic prelates in 2012.”
Patriarch John X, represented by his designee at the meeting with Obama, and Syriac Patriarch Yonan (Younan) have both been persistent in their defense of the Assad regime.
In 2013, Younan accused the United States and other Western nations of carrying out a geopolitical strategy “to split Syria and other countries” in the Middle East.
“It’s not a question of promoting democracy or pluralism as the West wants us to understand of its policies,” Younan said. “This is a lie, this is hypocrisy.”
Following the incident in which Cruz was booed for his support of Israel, the IDC website was temporarily down, though it is currently once again live.