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ND-Georgetown project receives $1.1 million grant

| Sunday, September 7, 2014

Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights received a $1.1 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust last month to conduct research on Christian persecution around the world.

The project, titled  “Under Caesar’s Sword: How Christian Communities Respond to Repression,” is a joint project with Georgetown University and includes a team of more than fifteen research scholars from universities around the nation, including international relations professor Dr. Daniel Philpott and assistant professor of political science Fr. Robert Dowd.

Philpott said the University’s involvement is a significant demonstration of commitment to understanding the violation of religious rights across the globe.

“I think it’s very important for a Catholic university to be in solidarity with Christians who are being persecuted around the world,” he said. “This is a Notre Dame-Georgetown initiative, and it’s a way for these two Catholic universities to cooperate on something that’s very important for the church.”

The project will focus specifically on past case studies of Christian persecution and the various strategies Christian communities have used to respond to religious persecution, Philpott said. The team plans to conduct research in more than 30 countries, including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Nigeria and Syria. Philpott said the countries in the study represent the most egregious cases of religious persecution in the 21st century.

“The persecution of Christians is widespread in the world,” he said. “To take the violation of religious freedom as a broader human right, the Pew Forum estimates that 76 percent of the population lives under a government that strongly denies religious freedom.

“If you take that, 80 percent of acts of religious discrimination are committed against Christians. As I like to say, Christians are the ‘lion’s share of the lions den.'”

Philpott said the project will have a timespan of three years, with the first year dedicated to research and travel and following years dedicated to disseminating research results in important international forums in an effort to increase awareness. Forums will include a major international conference in Rome on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom, a public launch of the report in Washington D.C., a documentary and a distribution of informative curricula among 5,000 parishes.

The project aims to create greater awareness and response in international and human rights organizations, Philpott said, as well as create a sense of solidarity among Catholics who remain unaware of the human rights violations faced by Christians across the world.

“We hope that out of this awareness will come actual responses of solidarity and assistance for persecuted Christians,” he said. “It would be a terrible thing to forget about them or to ignore them, and it’s part of our very identity and mission to be in solidarity to tell their story, recognize their plight, and do everything we can to help them.”

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