Washington, D.C. – The third annual March for the Martyrs, held on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., aimed to raise awareness of Christian persecution all over the world, particularly in the Middle East.
Though a small gathering — some 200 people gathered for the short march from the National Sylvan Theater to the Museum of the Bible on Sunday — attendees expressed vehement passion for the cause.
Gia Chacon, founder of For the Martyrs and the March for the Martyrs, told Fox News Digital, “We believe that Christian persecution is one of the gravest, if not the gravest, under-publicized human rights crises of our time.”
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“This year we’re working to bring this issue to the forefront of the fight for human rights,” she also said.
“Christian persecution continues to increase every single year,” Chacon said as well. “And yet there remains a silence around this issue.”
For some at the march, the issue of Christian persecution overseas is a deeply personal one.
Amy Gangaraj, 26, of Johnson City, Tenn., came to the March for Martyrs after she saw the event advertised on social media.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience to realize how much freedom I have here.”
“Once I found out about it, it was a calling on my heart,” she said. “My husband is an Iranian. He’s been persecuted where he lives in Turkey,” she added.
“I’d never done anything like this before,” she said about attending the march. “I just felt like it was kind of my time.”
Gangaraj indicated that many people in the U.S. may take their rights and freedoms for granted.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience to realize how much freedom I have here,” she said.
In her husband’s culture, she said, “the people who choose to be Christian there are tested a lot more than an American is [here].”
Gangaraj said that in her opinion, while people in the United States may not agree with Christianity, “they’re not going to attack you” for it.
A group of Chaldean Catholics traveled from Michigan to attend the March for the Martyrs in Washington, D.C.
A group of Chaldean Catholics traveled from Michigan to attend the March for the Martyrs.
The Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with Rome, has origins in the Middle East.
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“Our people have been persecuted for a long time, for thousands of years, since the beginning of Christianity,” said Christopher Salem, 32, of Detroit.
Salem is co-founder of the nonprofit Nineveh Rising, which aims to help Christians in Iraq.
Between 1915 and 1924, he said, about three-fourths of the Chaldean Catholic population was killed in a genocide in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
“It’s not just ancient history. It’s also happening in recent times, too, like with ISIS, for example,” he said. “We went through the same thing in 2014, 2015 and 2016.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says that about half of the world’s Chaldean Catholic population lives in Iraq.
Roughly an additional third live in the United States, mainly in Michigan.
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The Chaldean Christians in Iraq are “trying to resist extinction,” said Salem. “There’s not that many of us in the world.”
“Christian persecution is an issue worldwide — and particularly in the United States, it is overlooked.”
Salem expressed concern that the Chaldean church could “disappear” within generations if something is not done to stop the persecution overseas.
It is also important, he said, that people not forget about these vulnerable populations.
“Always keep people in mind who share your faith but not your freedom,” said Salem. “Because there are a lot of people over there that feel like they’re neglected, feel like they’re abandoned,” he said.
Others who attended the March for the Martyrs didn’t have as far to travel to the Sunday event — but their beliefs were no less passionate.
Michael Ippolito, 21, a senior at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said this was his second time attending the March for the Martyrs.
“Christian persecution is an issue worldwide — and particularly in the United States, it is overlooked,” he said.
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March for the Martyrs featured speakers from various Christian denominations who were united in their support of Christians overseas.
“It’s important that we come together as brothers in Christ and try and advocate for the people in political power to do something about it,” he said.
This was the second year the March for the Martyrs was held in Washington, D.C.
The event was first held in 2020, in Long Beach, Calif.
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