The third annual March for the Martyrs, held on Sunday, September 25, 2022 at the National Mall in Washington, DC, aimed to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians around the world, particularly in the Middle East .
Although a small gathering — about 200 people who gathered for the short march from the National Sylvan Theater to the Museum of the Bible on Sunday — participants expressed their fierce passion for the cause.
Gia Chacon, founder of For the Martyrs and the March for the Martyrs, told Fox News Digital, “We believe the persecution of Christians is one of the gravest, if not the gravest, underreported human rights crises of our time.”
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“This year we are working to bring this issue to the forefront of the fight for human rights,” she also said.
“Persecution of Christians continues to increase every year,” Chacon said. “And yet there is silence on this subject.”
For some marchers, the issue of the persecution of Christians abroad is deeply personal.
Amy Gangaraj, 26, of Johnson City, Tennessee, came to the March for Martyrs after seeing the event’s announcement on social media.
“When I found out about it, it was a calling to my heart,” she said. “My husband is Iranian. He has been persecuted where he lives in Turkey,” she added.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said of attending the march. “I just felt like it was kind of my time.”
Gangaraj pointed out that many people in the US take their rights and freedoms for granted.
“It was an eye-opening experience to realize how much freedom I have here,” she said.
In her husband’s culture, she said, “people who choose to be Christians there are tested a lot more than an American would be [here].”
Gangaraj said that in her opinion, while people in the United States do not agree with Christianity, “they will not attack you for it.”
A group of Chaldean Catholics traveled from Michigan to take part in the March for the Martyrs.
The Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with Rome, has its origins in the Middle East.
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“Our people have been persecuted for millennia since the dawn of Christianity,” said Christopher Salem, 32, of Detroit.
Salem is co-founder of the non-profit organization Nineveh Rising, which aims to help Christians in Iraq.
Between 1915 and 1924 about three quarters of the Chaldean Catholic population were killed in genocides in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
“It’s not just ancient history. It’s also happening more recently, like with ISIS,” he said. “We went through the same thing in 2014, 2015 and 2016.”
The United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference says about half of the world’s Chaldean Catholic population lives in Iraq.
About another third live in the United States, mostly in Michigan.
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Chaldean Christians in Iraq “are trying to resist annihilation,” Salem said. “There aren’t that many of us in the world.”
Salem expressed concern that unless something is done to stop the persecution abroad, the Chaldean Church could “disappear” within generations.
It’s also important, he said, that people don’t forget about these vulnerable populations.
“Always remember people who share your faith but not your freedom,” Salem said. “Because there are a lot of people over there who feel neglected, feel abandoned,” he said.
Others who took part in the March for the Martyrs didn’t have to travel as far to attend Sunday’s event – but their faith was no less fervent.
Michael Ippolito, 21, a senior at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, said this is his second participation in the March for the Martyrs.
“Persecution of Christians is a global problem — and particularly overlooked in the United States,” he said.
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The March for the Martyrs featured speakers from various Christian denominations united in their support for Christians overseas.
“It’s important that we come together as brothers in Christ and try to persuade those in power to do something about it,” he said.
This was the second year that the March for the Martyrs was held in Washington, DC
The event was first held in 2020 in Long Beach, California.