Seed of the Church: Telling the Story of Today's Christian Martyrs

Nuovi Martiri, used with permission of the Comunità di Sant’Egidio


Sunday, November 4 - Tuesday, November 6, 2012

McKenna Hall, University of Notre Dame



Presentations and additional resources given or referenced by conference presenters.


The conference intends to raise consciousness inside and outside the Church regarding the widespread persecution of Christians around the world and to explore how the Church has responded and might respond vigorously and faithfully in the future. 

It is striking how little attention the secular world pays to this injustice, despite the fact that the persecution of Christians is one of the largest classes of human rights violations in the world today.   The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community estimates that some 100 million Christians are victims of severe persecution.  Yet governments, human rights organizations, the global media, and the western university pay little heed.  For example, of three hundred reports that Human Rights Watch has produced since 2008, only one focuses on a case of Christian persecution. Similarly, despite the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act by the U.S. Congress in 1998, neither U.S. foreign policy nor civil society has ever made the persecution of Christians a high priority.

A central objective of this conference is to rectify this lack of acknowledgment of this persecution by the secular media and Western academia, and to communicate to the world the extent and character of the persecution.  Yet the purpose of the conference goes beyond raising awareness.  It is also to explore how the Church can respond to the persecution of Christian believers prayerfully and liturgically, out of the depths of the Church’s spiritual theology.  In the most profound sense, what does it mean to be in solidarity with brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer violence for their faith? The conference will explore several dimensions of this question, including:

  • Where exactly are the persecuted Christians? How many are there? 
  • What are the circumstances surrounding persecution in specific countries and regions, including China, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Middle East, and the countries involved in the Arab Spring?  
  • What kind of responses to persecutions ought Christians to urge upon governments? 
  • How can we form partnerships with those of other faiths to secure religious freedom for all faiths?
  • What are the most effective and faithful responses on the part of the Church? 

The conference will also explore a theology of martyrdom for the world today, framed in terms of Eucharistic remembering and of the "ecumenism of the martyrs" urged on the Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II. 


Archbishop Vigano

John Allen

His Excellency ARCHBISHOP CARLO MARIA VIGANO, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States

JOHN L. ALLEN, JR., Senior Correspondent, National Catholic Reporter and Senior Vatican Analyst, CNN



R. Scott Appleby, Professor of History and Regan Director, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

Mehdi Azaiez, Ph.D. Candidate and Researcher, Université de Provence, France, and Visiting Scholar, University of Notre Dame

Archbishop Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan

Fr. Gianni Criveller, Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and Professor at Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy, Hong Kong

Thomas Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Visiting Associate Professor of Religion and International Affairs, Georgetown  University

Allen D. Hertzke, Presidential Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Oklahoma

Todd Johnson, Associate Professor of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto, Nigeria

Rashied Omar, Research Scholar of Islamic Studies and Peacebuilding and Fellow, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

Chad C. Pecknold, Assistant Professor of Theology, Catholic University of America

Fr. Cedric Prakash, Director of Prashant, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

Msgr. Angelo Romano, Community of Sant'Egidio, Church of San Bartolomeo

Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity and Professor of History, Yale Divinity School, Yale University

Timothy Samuel Shah, Associate Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center For Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Government Department, Georgetown University

Nina Shea, Director, Center for Religious Freedom and Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute

Samuel Tadros, Research Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute and Professional Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University



Conference SCHEDULE for download - PDF file

As you plan your conference travel, please note:

  • Conference check-in will be on Sunday, November 4, from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • The first session will begin at 7:45 p.m. on Sunday, November 4, 2012.
  • The conference will conclude late in the day on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.


Conference events will be held on the University of Notre Dame campus at the Notre Dame Conference Center | 115 McKenna Hall  |  Notre Dame, IN 46556.


Most conference events will be held in the Notre Dame Conference Center - McKenna Hall on the University of Notre Dame campus. The campus is about a ten minute ride from the South Bend Regional Airport, and taxis are generally waiting outside the airport to transport passengers.

South Bend is accessible by air, the South Shore train from Chicago, and buses from both O'Hare and Midway airports in Chicago.

A campus map is available at: .  Public parking is available near McKenna in either the Visitors' Lot or at the Notre Dame Bookstore.


Participants are responsible for booking their own lodging for the conference.

A block of rooms has been reserved for conference at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, which is immediately adjacent to the University of Notre Dame campus, at the discounted rate of $119/night (includes full breakfast each morning).  Please make sure to let the booking agent know that you should get the conference discount when reserving your room.

Other local hotels near the University include (but are not limited to):



Meals will be on your own throughout the conference.  A wide selection of eateries are available on campus, all of which are walking distance from McKenna Hall.  Eddy Street Commons, just south of campus, also offers a variety of restaurants.


The closest available parking to McKenna Hall is the Visitor Lot just south of the B1 lot and Notre Dame Football Stadium.  The Visitor Lot has no time limit, but requires a $2 fee to exit. The C1 Lot does not require a fee, but is a slightly farther walk to McKenna.  For handicap-accessible parking, please check with one of the guard houses at either of the main campus entrances or call Notre Dame Security Police (574.631.5555) in advance of your trip to discuss the best options for accessible parking.