Religion News Service | By Lauren Markoe
Posted: 09/11/2014 1:17 pm EDT Updated: 09/11/2014 1:59 pm EDT
(RNS) After he said “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was heckled off the stage at a Wednesday night (Sept. 10) gala to raise awareness of beleaguered Mideast Christians.
Cruz, the keynote speaker at the Washington, D.C., dinner, sponsored by In Defense of Christians, a new organization spearheaded by Catholic and Orthodox Christians, prompted boos and cries of “stop it!” and “enough” and “no!” as an increasingly louder crowd told him to get off the stage.
The incident, first reported by the online news organization The Daily Caller, was captured on video by EWTN, the Catholic television network. The video shows that Cruz tried to continue speaking, but many in the audience, in a hotel ballroom, expressed anger when he included Hamas in the list of militants out to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East.
Politicians, policy makers and faith leaders have urged the international community to step up its response to religious persecution in the Middle East.
Meeting for the inaugural IDC (In Defence of Christians) Summit in Washington this week, representatives from Middle Eastern churches condemned global inaction, insisting all nations must immediately address the growing crisis in Iraq and Syria.
According to the Washington Post, Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, Maronite patriarch of Antioch and all the East, said: "Far too long the world has stood there watching these atrocities without lifting a finger while the local government has proved to be utterly incapable of saving the lives of its citizens."
The plight of Christians in the region has been of particular concern after being targeted specifically by Islamic State (IS) militants in a bid to create a caliphate.
Last week, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby noted that the Middle East is the "birthplace of Christianity, and home to indigenous Christian communities that have been an indispensible part of its history".
He warned that the region is "in desperate danger of losing an irreplaceable part of its identity, heritage and culture."
The IDC summit yesterday echoed this sentiment, with Aram I Keshishian, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, branding the crisis a "global evil".
"Religious freedom is not just an American right, it's a universal right," Cardinal Patriarch Rai, speaking before several members of Congress, added.