Fact Sheet: World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians


  • To bring together church leaders, victims of persecution and advocates to help raise global awareness about the plight of persecuted Christians, show solidarity with those who suffer because of their faith and look for solutions to the unprecedented persecution of Christians happening today around the world


Summit Goals

  • Provide a platform for firsthand stories about the persecution of Christians from around the world to be heard, collected and documented
  • Help raise global awareness about the plight of persecuted Christians and show solidarity with those who suffer because of their faith in Jesus Christ
  • Connect victims, advocates, leaders and influencers to create partnerships that can help bring about change
  • Encourage and pray for those who have faced beatings, torture, imprisonment, rape and even death because of their Christian faith
  • Celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord



  • The World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians is hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association


Schedule and Location

  • May 10 – 13, 2017
  • Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
  • Nine plenary sessions and five breakout sessions
  • Trump International Hotel, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004 (dinner and closing plenary session only, May 12, 8 p.m.)



  • More than 600 Christian delegates from some 130 countries and territories  


Christian Denominations and Historical Traditions Represented

  • Protestant churches
  • Orthodox Church in America
  • Syrian Orthodox Church
  • Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  • Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
  • Russian Orthodox Church
  • Roman Catholic Church 
  • Assyrian Church of the East


Keynote Speakers and Topics

(speaker bios)

  • Wed, May 10, 7 p.m.—Franklin Graham (U.S.): Unshakable, Courageous Faith
  • Thu, May 11, 9 a.m.—Peter Kuzmič (Croatia): A Biblical View on Suffering and Persecution
  • Thu, May 11, 11 a.m.—Metropolitan Hilarion (Russia): Defying Division
  • Thu, May 11, 4 p.m.—Robert Cunville (India): The Gospel's Power
  • Thu, May 11, 7 p.m.—Jack Graham (U.S.): Strength Through Persecution
  • Fri, May 12, 9 a.m.—Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Washington): Carrying the Cross
  • Fri, May 12, 11 a.m.—Bishop Michael Nasir-Ali (U.K.): Ministering to the Oppressed and Persecuted
  • Fri, May 12, 4 p.m.—Ravi Zacharias (Canada): Living in the World, but Not of It
  • Fri, May 12, 8 p.m., Trump International Hotel—Sami Dagher (Lebanon): The Call of the Christian


Additional ​Topics and Co-Moderators

  • Religious Extremism and Militarism: Responding to Militants Driven by Religious Ideology
    • Mr. Bassam Ishak, president, Syriac National Council of Syria
    • Jason Peters, D.Min., associate vice president, The Voice of the Martyrs, U.S.
  • Oppressive States and Governments: Living the Gospel in the Face of Political Discrimination 
    • Lauren B. Homer, Law and Liberty Trust, U.S.
    • Rev. Professor Thomas K. Johnson, Religious Freedom Ambassador, U.S.
  • Secularist Agendas: Withstanding the Oppression of Humanistic Philosophy  
    • Ellen Fantini, Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians, Austria
    • Thomas Schirrmacher, Ph.D., professor of theology and philosophy, International Institute for Religious Freedom, Germany
  • Historic and Traditional Religions: Engaging Deep-Seated Folk, Tribal and Ancestral Beliefs 
    • Fernando da Silva, Ph.D., South Africa, Mozambique/RLC affiliated with The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA)
    • Johnnie Moore, president, The Kairos Company; worked with genocide victims in the Middle East, Bosnia and Rwanda, U.S.
  • Christian Traditionalism: Worshipping Amid Suppression by Dominating Religions 
    • Jeff Taylor, president, Open Doors International, U.S.
    • Timothy Shah, Ph.D., Georgetown University, U.S.


Other Notable Participants 

  • Pastor Khader Al Khoury (Profiles in Faithfulness)
  • Mrs. Susanne Geske, widow of a German missionary martyred in Turkey (Profiles in Faithfulness)
  • Mr. Cheol Hwan Kang, North Korean defector (Profiles in Faithfulness)
  • Chief Kelvin Cochran, former Atlanta fire chief (Profiles in Faithfulness)
  • Pastor Dmitry (David) Shestakov, formerly imprisoned in Uzbekistan for his faith (Profiles in Faithfulness)
  • Rev. Edward Awabdeh, Syrian pastor (Profiles in Faithfulness)
  • U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black
  • House of Representatives Chaplain Father Patrick J. Conroy  
  • Members of the parliaments of Canada, the U.K., Ukraine and Moldova  
  • Honorable Frank Wolf, author of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act that created the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and the State Department Office of International Religious Freedom
  • Thomas Farr, Ph.D., professor at Georgetown University and now president of the Religious Freedom Institute
  • Lord David Alton, member of the House of Lords (U.K.)
  • Chris Seiple, Ph.D., Institute for Global Engagement
  • Kent Hill, Ph.D., Religious Freedom Institute
  • Faith McDonnell, The Institute on Religion and Democracy
  • Benjamin Harnwell, Dignitatis Humanae Institute 


Firsthand Stories

  • North Korea (defectors)
  • Upper Egypt 
  • Uzbekistan
  • Syria
  • Iraq
  • Turkey
  • Eritrea
  • Sudan
  • Cuba
  • Turkmenistan 
  • India
  • Tunis
  • Palestine


Languages and Interpretation

  • Working language: English
  • Simultaneous interpretation from 19 interpreters in:
    • Spanish
    • Arabic
    • Russian
    • French
    • Vietnamese
    • Korean


Historic Venue Connection to Billy Graham's Ministry

The Mayflower Hotel was the site of the first-ever National Prayer Breakfast (then called the "Presidential Prayer Breakfast") on Feb. 5, 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower attended it at Billy Graham's urging.1

In February 1961, Graham joined U.S. President John F. Kennedy for the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, where Graham also spoke. Following the benediction, Graham and John F. Kennedy greeted 600 women attending the First Lady Breakfast elsewhere in the Mayflower Hotel.

Graham spoke at additional Presidential Prayer Breakfasts at the Mayflower Hotel, including Feb. 7, 1963, when he was introduced by then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson. The following year Graham again attended the Presidential Prayer Breakfast with Johnson, who had become president after the assassination of President Kennedy.

In addition to the Presidential Prayer Breakfasts, Graham attended many other events at the Mayflower Hotel during his ministry. On Jan. 11, 1952, Graham held a news conference at the hotel prior to his Greater Washington Evangelistic Crusade (which began Jan. 13 at the National Armory).

On July 2, 1970, Graham also participated in a press conference in the Chinese Room at the Mayflower in advance of "Honor America Day." The event was held on the National Mall two days later on July 4, and Graham gave the keynote address.

On Feb. 2, 1983, Graham participated in a program committee meeting at the Mayflower for the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists. The conference was held in July of that year in Amsterdam.2


Additional Summit Facts

An arch spans the entrance of the promenade area with the names of more than 12,000 Christian martyrs scrolling below Hebrews 13:3—“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” As participants enter and exit the World Summit space, they will be reminded of the harsh reality facing so many Christians across the globe.

At the conclusion of the opening plenary session on Wednesday, May 10, stainless steel bracelets bearing the names of the top 50 countries where it most difficult to be a Christian will be distributed to attendees as a visible reminder to pray for Christians in those countries.

The plenary session pulpit is one Billy Graham used at his Crusades in the 1990s. It contains the light-timer system Graham used to help him know when to end his message while speaking at events. 




1 smithsonianmag.com/history/national-prayer-breakfast-what-does-its-history-reveal

2According to records of Graham's longtime executive assistant, as well as records of the Fellowship Foundation and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association archived at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College