March for the Martyrs raises awareness of persecuted Armenian Christians and more — By: Catholic News Agency

Gia Chacón (right), founder of March for the Martyrs, said the plight of the tens of thousands of Christian Armenians pushed out of their homes in the disputed Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh region hash been “completely overlooked by the mainstream media.” / Credit: EWTN News Nightly / Screenshot

CNA Staff, Apr 27, 2024 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Marchers are setting out in the nation’s capital on Saturday to call attention to the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world.

Gia Chacón, founder of For the Martyrs and the March for the Martyrs, said the event aims to highlight often “overlooked” victims of persecution. This year’s march will focus on the persecution suffered by Armenian Christians as well as those in Nigeria and Iran.

In an interview with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol, Chacón said she started the initiative to both increase awareness and provide aid for persecuted Christian communities throughout the world.

Chacón explained that the decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted anew last September, when Azerbaijan unleashed military strikes against an enclave of about 120,000 Armenian Christians in the disputed Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

Chacón told EWTN called the situation a “genocide.” 

“As a result of this invasion, over 120,000 Christian Armenians were pushed out of their homes,” she said. “Their history was destroyed. This was an attempt at an ethnic cleansing of the Armenia Christians who have been in this region for hundreds of years.”

“It is completely overlooked by the mainstream media,” she added. “It’s also gone under the radar or supposedly under the radar of the Biden administration. They’re not doing enough to protect Christians in Armenia.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria and Iran are both ranked in the top 10 in the Open Doors organization’s 2024 World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. 

Between April and June 2023 there were more than 1,600 recorded deaths of Christians in Nigeria, more than 600 Christians abducted, and more than 100 attacks on communities with fatalities, according to the Observatory for Religious Freedom in Africa (ORFA).

Nigerian Catholic priests are frequently kidnapped and in some cases, murdered. One Nigerian bishop has described the situation in Nigeria as a Christian “genocide.” 

Chacón also highlighted “ongoing human rights abuses … particularly for the Church” in Iran. 

There were 166 documented arrests of Christians in Iran in 2023, according to a 2024 report by Article18. The report found that “many Christians report severe mistreatment during arrest and detention,” while others were not given a reason for their arrest.

But Christians of all traditions “come together as one voice for the persecuted,” Chacón said, adding: “We’ve seen this movement grow every single year.”

Chacón highlighted how not only Catholics and Protestants have joined the cause but also Assyrian, Orthodox, Armenian, Nigerian, and Ethiopian Christians. 

“It’s beautiful to see just the diversity in the crowd,” she said. “It really is a picture and a reflection of the global body of Christ.”

The annual march is taking place in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, starting at 3 p.m. It will feature a kickoff rally on the National Mall with actor Jim Caviziel as a keynote speaker. 

Survivors of persecution and other experts will also speak at the event. The March for Martyrs Procession will start at 4 p.m. and the evening will conclude with a Night of Prayer for the Persecuted at the Museum of the Bible. 

For more details on the march, visit the For the Martyrs website.

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