Last week, Columba Stewart, George William Cottrell, Jr. Member in the School of Historical Studies, Executive Director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, and Professor of Theology at Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, participated in the fourteenth annual international joint commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches in Rome.
Participating were representatives of the Antiochian Syrian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of All Armenians and Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia), the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The meeting focused on recent developments between the two communions and the common heritage of early Christian liturgical traditions as well as contemporary issues facing diaspora communities.
In light of the inauguration of President Trump, Stewart was asked to speak on the implications for endangered religious minorities of changes in U.S. foreign policy. A number of the participants had themselves been kidnapped, detained, or otherwise persecuted in the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the recent Syrian civil war, as had many of their people. Stewart warned that the new U.S. policy, although ostensibly intended in part to protect Christian minorities, was likely to exacerbate tensions and that Western intervention would be no more helpful to Christian minorities in the region in the current circumstances than were the Crusades.