Press Release

Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Seven Point Plan to End Persecution of Christians

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Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York

On May 7th, His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, gave the following remarks on his seven-point plan to end the persecution of Christians by the Islamic State.

Cardinal Dolan spoke at Hudson Institute’s all-day panel, “The Islamic State’s Religious Cleansing and the Urgency of a Strategic Response,” held at The Peninsula Hotel in New York City.

A partial transcription of remarks by His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan:

“Seven points. Number one, everybody, is a sense of urgency when it comes to the persecution of Christians. We are talking about an extraordinarily urgent issue, an international emergency. This is not some nice idea, this is not some chic hobby, we are talking about life or death, we are talking about the survival of beloved, of ancient, loving, Christian communities, we are talking about something that cannot wait. [We need to have] a real sense of urgency for Christians under the knife.

Number two, the demand to give this constantly accelerated, and intensified publicity. We have got to become “Johnny one-notes” on this issue. We cannot let it go. We are going to talk about Christians being beheaded, martyred, harassed, threatened. We are going to keep talking about it. We’re not going to let it die….talking, talking, talking. [sic]

Number three. In talking about it, we have got to be blunt, we have to call it what it is. We are talking about fanatical Islamic Christianophobic terrorism, and we should not be afraid to tag it as such. We don’t need to get into euphemisms; we don’t need to get into circumlocution. We know what this is about, and we need to tag it as such.

Number four, we have got to affirm genuine Islamic moderate voices. Not only to affirm them, but to rejoice when they are beginning to speak up, as I think they are in Egypt and Jordan. And we have got to urge them to accept the very blunt invitation of Pope Francis to begin to come forward. We especially have to convince the voices of genuine Islamic leadership here in the United States to speak up. I’m an American Catholic historian by trade, and traditionally for the last hundred years, because immigrants and religious refugees have settled in this country, they became advocates for the ones they have left behind and they can speak with particular eloquence about the virtues of religious freedom, religious amity, and religious cooperation. So we have got to affirm those voices, we have to invite them and create a space for them, especially in the United States. Now I don’t want to get off the track, but I know that’s a particular challenge, because sometimes it is very difficult to find them. We mean it when we say that the Islamic fanatical Christianophobic terrorists do not represent genuine Islam.

But we also need to echo Pope Frances’ invitation, those who represent genuine Islam, we are begging to speak up and condemn in a full-throated way the atrocities committed by those who claim to be active on behalf of Islam. So, a sense of urgency, increased unremitting publicity, a sense of bluntness on calling this what this is, and affirmation where it’s called for.

Number five, advocacy, advocacy, advocacy [sic]. To advocate with our government, who by the way, I don’t know if they’ve been as vocal, as pointed, and as effective as they should be, to advocate with their governments, and the governments of these nations where this persecution and bloodshed is taking place—to advocate with their ambassadors and their representatives. I try to do that here in New York, where we have the advantage of everyone of these countries where atrocities are happening, well guess what, they have an ambassador here to the United Nations and to put them on the spot, and to write them, and to call them, to ask them to come in. they are not too receptive to those invitations, as you are probably not surprised to know. But [we need] to advocate not only with our government, but also with the government of nations where this Christianophobic [behavior] is taking place.

Number six, is to get interreligious about this. Pope Francis, I believe it goes back to Pope Benedict, uses the word, the ecumenism of the martyrs. When it comes to bloodshed, we need a coalition of religious leaders. I am particularly indebted to Jewish leadership that has been in solidarity with us as Christians in condemning Christianophobia. I meet with prominent Jewish leaders all the time on a range of issues and they’ll look me in the eyes and they will say, “why are you Catholics, why are you Christians so hoarse about this? Take it from us. It will not stop. It will not go away. Take it from us who learned the hard way, you must speak up constantly and strongly, or it is only going to get worse.”

Not long ago, Ron Lauder came into see me,[he’s the] President of the World Jewish Congress, and an extraordinarily effective leader in anti-Semitism. He came to see me and said, “Where are you guys? We need you. We need a world Catholic or a world Christian congress. You need to do what we’re doing.”

I am in admiration of what our “older brothers and sisters in the faith,” or the Jewish communities, as Pope Saint John Paul II called them. They put us to shame in their advocacy and protection of their brother and sister Jews who are at risk. They are encouraging us to do the same, and they are offering to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us. Not long ago I had the honor of speaking to the Anti-Defamation Leagues and the line that got the greatest applause is that Jews and Catholics in America are closer than ever, because somewhere, someplace, at this very moment, either a Jew, Christian or Catholic are in the crosshairs of fanatical terrorists--and we have to stand together. And this brought them to their feet. So we need the interreligious action here, and we should not forget our evangelical brothers who are suffering, and we should not forget the Church of Latter-day Saints.

And finally, [number seven]. We just don’t approach this terribly painful topic of the persecution and martyrdom of Christians across the world, we don’t just approach this from just a social, a political, a historical, a cultural point of view. We can never forget the optics of faith. You and I are men and women of faith. So never ever do we underestimate the power of prayer. Never, ever, do we forget mentioning the suffering of persecuted Christians throughout the world at every single mass. Never ever do we stop reaffirming our faith in the famous statement by Tertullian, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith. And never ever do we stop giving all the aid we can to those who are suffering persecution.

What Bishop [Gregory John] Mansour and I hear from our brother bishops, and this is my final point, there is a great “apostolate of the ears,” of listening. And we listen to their pleas, we listen to them beg us not to forget them. I listen to my brother Ignatius Kaigama, who is the Archbishop of Jos in Nigeria, the center of Boko Haram, who says, “why is it, when 8 or 9 people are martyred in Paris, the world raises up, and I’m glad that they do. [But] when 300 Christians are kidnapped or butchered in Nigeria by Boko Haram, the world responds with a big ‘ho hum.’” He said, “We can’t let this happen.” So listen to the pleas, the cries, the anguish. Last week, I was able to host [Archbishop Jean-Clément] Jeanbart, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop in Syria, whose words left me breathless, whose words left me with a combination of sadness, guilt, and helplessness. He was an amazing confessor of the faith when he spoke with such passion about what his people are going through. And we can’t let these people down. And to see you coming together this morning, in a way, soothes the sense, at times, of discouragement, futility and helplessness that at times [we] feel.”