Kristina Olney '09

Director of Government Relations and Outreach, In Defense of Christians

John Jay Fellow

Christians in the Middle East have been suffering demographic decline for many years because of persecution and discrimination in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, but by 2014 they faced the threat of extinction. As 100,000 Christians—around a quarter of those left in Iraq—were forced to flee their homes, Kristina Olney was building a coalition to do what had never been done before: effectively protect them.

The Australian-born activist’s John Jay externship had placed her with a U.S. representative in Congress. She worked her way up the ranks in Washington, D.C., heading up offices in religious freedom organizations that belied her age, and remaining active in the John Jay Institute alumni circles, especially in international relations arenas. Kristina became director of government relations and outreach for the new coalition head group In Defense of Christians.  She assembled think tank experts, university professors, and people from on the ground to meet with legislators and aid groups on and off Capitol Hill. Thus was born IDC Summit 2014—a gathering of international leaders to explore action on the issue, and uniting previously disparate advocacy groups to make the voice of persecuted minorities heard in governments across the world.

“The situation isn’t just a human rights issue, or an issue of solidarity for Christians,” Kristina explains. “It’s also a national security issue for the United States, as Christians have long been a force for diversity and pluralism in the Middle East.”

“During my time as a fellow, I learned that politics follows culture, and that culture cannot exist without community. ”
Kristina addresses the IDC Summit 2014, an unprecedented gathering of international leaders (including bishops and patriarchs from disparate churches) to explore action on Middle Eastern religious freedom.

Kristina addresses the IDC Summit 2014, an unprecedented gathering of international leaders (including bishops and patriarchs from disparate churches) to explore action on Middle Eastern religious freedom.

June 5 2015: Kristina briefs Hill staffers in D.C. on "How Christianity Will Survive in Iraq: Prospects for a Political Solution." The event was co-hosted by International Christian Concern, In Defense of Christians, and included support from Iraqi and Kurdistan religious freedom and government groups.

June 5 2015: Kristina briefs Hill staffers in D.C. on "How Christianity Will Survive in Iraq: Prospects for a Political Solution." The event was co-hosted by International Christian Concern, In Defense of Christians, and included support from Iraqi and Kurdistan religious freedom and government groups.