State Department official Knox Thames visit to Michigan, American Middle East Christians Congress point of view

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Once again, the American Middle East/Michigan-based Christian community in general, and the Iraqi Christian community in particular, has failed in our opinion to come with a unified, well-studied conversation, confrontation, and demand for action when they met on March 19, 2016 with Mr. Knox Thames, the U.S. State Department’s special adviser for religious minorities in the Middle East and south and central Asia, during his special visit to Detroit. His trip was well-planned before, but was only known to a few people. So Mr. Thames had to travel to three Chaldean centers, which are basically run by organizations run by one person or by a one-person-oriented commercial organization. Many Middle East community church, civic, and civil rights experts, authorities, and political activists were not invited.

In addition, Mr. Thames met a very well-respected Syriac church leader in Novi, whose church was mistakenly called an Arab church by Niraj Warikoo, a Detroit Free Press writer who over the years has determined that many Assyrian, Syriac, Chaldean, and Coptic churches are Arab churches and denies their ethnicity, culture, and heritage.

Such a meeting was a rare visit from a State Department that has been criticized heavily and without exception by every Middle East and non-Middle East church leader for not responding over the past many years, and especially in the past few years when the churches in Syria, Iraq, and some other Middle East minorities were subjected to genocide, destruction of their culture, forced emigration and immigration, and a lukewarm declaration by Secretary of State Kerry of genocide.

This is not the first time and it will not be the last time that our community misses such opportunities of unified pre-meetings with such dignitaries. They must study the purpose of the visit, have people qualified in their fields to present their causes, and expect follow-up after the meeting. Unfortunately, this will not happen since the hosts of these meetings have their own self-induced agenda with little input from all the Middle East churches with their denominations and community organizations.

The American Middle East Christians Congress welcomes such meetings, but we did not come to one of these meetings when he was invited because we do not believe these meetings were in the interest of the community at large, whether in Michigan, the United States, or elsewhere. The American Middle East Christians Congress president has written in the past to the church leadership, as well as to the community leadership at large, that the national, religious, community interests should be above and beyond organizations that only represent their agendas and their presidents. We feel at pain to write this article because of a missed opportunity for a better outcome, as such meetings have given better results with other non-Middle East Christian communities and different faiths.

Dr. Ramsay F. Dass, MD
President, American Middle East Christians Congress /
Office: (248) 546-9100
Cell: (248) 763-6006

P.S. You may visit our re-edited and revised Fourth Edition of our book, The Middle East Christians: The Untold Story, at or