BEIRUT: A conference on protecting the Christian presence in the East will be held next week, gathering senior Middle Eastern Christian figures and American officials in Washington, D.C.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai will lead a delegation of Christian patriarchs and will meet with top U.S. officials during his brief stay. According to the Central News Agency, the three-day conference may include a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
The first day of the conference will take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C., followed by two days at the Capitol building where Rai and his companions will hold talks with U.S. senators and attend lectures on human rights and freedom of belief.
The meetings, according to the CNA, are aimed at producing an American position on the Christian situation in the Middle East, along with a decision to take concrete steps toward safeguarding the group’s survival under the threat imposed by the rise of fundamentalist groups.
The agency also reported that Rai would extend his visit for a few days after the conference to visit several Maronite dioceses in California and Texas.
The CNA said that sources close to Rai did not dismiss the possibility of a similar visit to Moscow later on, as part of the tour that started with the visit to Iraqi Kurdistan and continued with the trip to Vatican that ended Tuesday.
The Christian delegation, which includes Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, is expected to leave Lebanon Monday morning.