Conference Schedule

9:15-9:30 a.m. | Welcome | Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, President, Villanova University
     | Introduction | Rev. Kail C. Ellis, OSA, PhD, Assistant to the President, Conference Director, Villanova University

9:30-10:00 a.m. | U.S. and International Efforts to Address the Situation of Religious Minorities in the Middle East

Session I: Christian Cultural and Intellectual Life in the Islamic Middle East:  The Shared History of Pluralistic and Cosmopolitan Spaces 

Moderator: Hibba Abugideiri, Associate Professor of History, Director, Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, Villanova University

10:00-10:30 a.m. | Christianity’s Historic Roots in the Middle East

10:30-11:00 a.m. | Christian Contributions to Art, Culture and Literature in the Arab-Islamic World

11:00-11:30 a.m. | Christian Contributions to Education and Social Advancement 

11:30-12:00 p.m. | Open Discussion/Q&A

12:00-1:00 p.m. | Lunch


Session II: Christian Contributions to Arab Politics and Religious Freedom

Moderator: Nabeel Haidar, Provost, American University of Science and Technology, Beirut, Lebanon

1:00-1:30 p.m. | The Role of Christian Intellectuals in Arab Politics and the Movement for Secular Nationalism and Religious Freedom

1:30-2:00 p.m. |The Human Rights of Minorities under the Laws of Republics and Monarchies

2:00-2:30 p.m. | Open Discussion and Q&A

Watch: Session II Discussion

Session III:  Strategies to Combat Persecution of Minority and Religious Communities

Moderator:  Catherine Warrick, Associate Professor, Political Science, Villanova University

2:30-3:00 p.m. | Political Strategies to Combat Persecution of Minority and Religious Communities and Safeguard their Ability to Remain in their Home Countries

3:00-3:30 p.m. | The “Responsibility to Protect” and the Dangers of Military Intervention in Fragile States to Combat Jihadism

3:30-4:00 p.m. | Open Discussion with Panelists/Q&A

Watch: Session III Discussion

4:00-6:00 p.m. | Mary Queen of Peace: Liturgical Objects from the Middle East 

Villanova University Art Gallery


Session IV: The Shia-Sunni Conflict and its Effect on the Region and International Relations
Moderator: Samer Abboud, Historical and Political Studies, Arcadia University

9:30-10:00 a.m. | The Arab Uprisings, Erosion of Nationalist Movements and the Expansion of Terrorism and Political Violence

10:00-10:30 a.m. | The Impact of the Shia-Sunni Political Struggle and Future Strategies for Christians and other Minorities in the Middle East

10:30-11:00 a.m. | Geopolitical Tensions: Russia, the United States and Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran and their effect on Christian and other Minority Communities

11:00–11:30 p.m. | Open Discussion with Panelists

Watch: Session IV Discussion


11:30-12:30 p.m. | Lunch


Session V   

12:30-1:00 p.m. | “Is it possible to elevate a secular awareness of religious diversity in the Middle East and to think of “minorities” not as marginalized but as people who share concerns that are common to the inhabitants of the region in the context of war and interventionism?”

1:00-2:30 p.m. | Open Discussion with Panelists and Q&A

Moderator:  Rev. Kail C. Ellis, OSA, PhD, Villanova University
Each panelist will present a 5-7 minute statement that will address ideas to address the challenges facing Christian and other minority communities of the Middle East.

Watch: Open Discussion with Panelists and Q&A


“I applaud the efforts of Villanova University to explore in some detail, certain aspects of the topic of Christians in the contemporary Middle East. Certainly, strategies and solutions for the continued existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East cannot be contemplated without a thoughtful framing of the issues.”

Archbishop Christophe Pierre
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
Excerpt from an October 2016 letter to the Rev. Kail C. Ellis, OSA

“Arab Christians are an integral part of the cultural identity of Muslims, just as Muslims are an integral part of the cultural identity of Christians...We are responsible for each other before God and humanity.”

Catholic Patriarchs of the Orient in their Pastoral Letter for Easter 1992,
"Christian Presence in the Orient: Witness and Mission”