Stop Persecution!

 

Where Are Our Brothers’ and Sisters’ Keepers?

How many Christians will die in Church this Sunday?

 

A CALL to PRAYER

 

Statement initiated by the Jewish-Evangelical RoundTable, www.JewishEvangelicalRoundTable.org, with conveners Dr. Paul de Vries and Rabbi Yaakov Kermeier

In the past of many countries of great current persecution against Christians, Jewish men, women, and children have been victims of vicious persecution.

 

The Situation:  We are increasingly aware of violent persecution against Christian men, women, and children in many places of the world, particularly in Gaza, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and North Korea. 

 

1.    A rising tide of persecution against Christians around the world has increased year by year.1

2.    In particular, the celebrated “Arab spring” has quickly become a “killing season” against whole populations of Christian men, women, and children.  

3.    Persecution against Christian people includes torture, imprisonment, and murder—as well as strategic, targeted, systemic discrimination in employment, housing, education, and safety, as well as dozens of churches burned in 2013 alone.  More than 80 churches have been burned in Egypt since June 2013, in hateful revenge for the cutbacks in extremist Muslim Brotherhood power. 

4.    Christian men, women and children are now the most frequent target of persecution in the world.  As much as 75% of persecution globally is presently against Christians.2 In Peshawar, Pakistan two suicide bombers attacked a large Church, killing 129 people just as services were over.  It took two hours for a hospital to send an ambulance, even though it is ten minutes away.  Please see more at www.PakistanBomb.com.  WARNING: graphic photos.

5.    Churches full of believers have been surrounded by gangs of heavily armed militants during public worship.  These militants force the believers to remain in the church building while the militants burn it down. All the worshipers are then killed by the fire or by bullets. 

6.    In many countries it is a capital crime to become a Christian or to invite others to become Christians—or even to show hospitality to Christian neighbors.

7.    Christian men, women and children have been persecuted at many times in history, but rarely with such intensity and vicious abuse.  It is time for all people of good-will to stand with these brothers and sisters.

 

 

Religious liberty is the most treasured and most empowering liberty, and it is the vibrant root of all other liberties.  Religious liberty is established by Divine endowment, and through the Bible’s teachings.  It is also endorsed by the American Declaration of Independence, the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

 

 

The Action: As Christian and Jewish leaders, we urge all people of good will, everywhere:

 

o   To commit to these concerns and to core religious liberty values through earnest prayer and by encouraging others to pray.

o   To pray for these Christian men, women and children who are being abused, tortured, and killed.  Pray any time, any day.  Invite nearby churches and synagogues to join you in public prayer.

o   For example, hold a 10-20 minute prayer vigil for persecuted Christians after a church service—in the church building or outside—inviting the local rabbi and other religious leaders and congregations to participate also.  With pre-arranged police collaboration, even stop traffic for one or more minutes for prayer in the street in front of the church.

o   To urge our government leaders to pressure strategically the governments that endorse or allow persecution against Christians to cease immediately—and to urge our leaders, if necessary, to use credible threats of loss of aid and access to the US market to countries that persist in abusing Christians.

o   To implore corporations, trade associations, and other market leaders to use their influence to enhance the protections of this most precious God-given liberty of religious choice and practice.

o   To demand through other means of influence that all nations protect all their citizens from any religious persecution.3

 

 

 Email CONTACT: LISTEN@JewishEvangelicalRoundTable.org or call NY Divinity School: 646-395-0008.

 

Notes

1        The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion, September 2012; Paul Marshall, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, Thomas Nelson, Dallas, 2013; John L. Allen, Jr. The Global War on Christians, Image, New York, 2013.  See also www.persecution.org.

2        Robert Joustra, “Religious Freedom is not a Zero-Sum Game,” Christianity Today, April 22, 2013.  See also www.OpenDoors.org and www.Persecution.org, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (www.uscirf.gov).

3        This statement initiated by the Jewish-Evangelical RoundTable, www.JewishEvangelicalRoundTable.org, with conveners Dr. Paul de Vries and Rabbi Yaakov Kermeier.

 

Access valuable background information: The pictorial report of the double-suicide bombing of a large Church in Peshawar, Pakistan on September 22, 2013, at www.PakistanBomb.com.  WARNING: graphic photos.

 

 

 

Here below are two informative background documents:

 

1.    Why pray for Persecuted Christians?

By Godfrey Yogarajah, http://www.worldea.org/news/4295/  

Executive Director, Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:3 to 'remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering'.

Can we today pause our busy lives and think of those who are enduring persecution for the sake of the Gospel? Let us remember those who have not eaten for days because they are given nothing to eat … those languishing in prison … Christian families who have watched their homes burn to the ground … pastors who are beaten and tortured for their faith and enduring physical pain … Christian families and children living in constant fear of violence … those who have lost their loved ones … those who are facing death, even right at this moment, for refusing to denounce Christ…

If you or I were in such a situation, what would you ask your wider church family to do for you?

Every time I ask a persecuted Christian what we can do for them, the answer is always the same: “Please pray for us.”

On a visit to India, I met several widows of Christian leaders who were killed in the Orissa violence in the summer of 2008. They had lost everything: their homes, their possessions and their husbands. “We have lost everything except our faith,' one told me, clutching her baby. 'Pray that we stay strong and bring up our children in the faith for which their fathers gave their lives.”

… Let us unite in prayer for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ commanded: “For, if one suffers, we all suffer.”

 

 

 

2. The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

By George Marlin,  http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=52764

Chairman of the Board, Aid to the Church in Need, www.churchinneed.org, former Executive Director and CEO of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

For many months now there have been plenty of headlines devoted to the unrest in the Middle East, notably in Egypt and Syria. What has been missing, however, is any significant media coverage of the ongoing anti-Christian persecutions in those two countries. The world was just deliberating at the UN-silence. Where is the outrage?

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WASHINGTON, DC (Aid to the Church in Need) - The media seems indifferent or fearful of criticizing the criminal and terrorist activities of Muslim extremists - or journalists get the story plain wrong. Glaring case in point: a recent BBC report, covering the rebel attack on the ancient Syrian Christian village of Maaloula, claimed that "the fighting in Maaloula is the first such attack on a notable Christian community since the start of the uprising. Residents of many Christian villages around Homs and Hama have been fleeing the violence along with members of other communities, but had not up until now been attacked themselves."

Yet, young Christian girls are being raped and murdered, while Christian churches, monasteries, homes, and workplaces are being systematically destroyed. Syrian Catholic bishops have warned that their country is becoming a "second Iraq" owing to similar patterns of Church attacks and forced expulsion and kidnapping of Christians. During Saddam Hussein's reign of terror, Iraq's Christian population plummeted from 1.4 million to fewer than 300,000. Many of those Christian refugees settled in Syria, which was considered, at that time, a more tolerant country.

According to Church sources, the major industrial city of Homs, home to Syria's largest Christian population, has borne the brunt of violence. Attacks on Christian churches, schools, convents, as well as homes and businesses, have caused a mass exodus. It is estimated that 50,000 Christians, about 90 percent of the Christian population of Homs, have fled to the mountains or have sought refuge in Lebanon. Those left behind cannot find work and earn money to support their families. Food has been scarce and unaffordable. Before the start of the fighting in Syria, the Christian community accounted for some 10 percent of the Syrian population of 22 million.

Charitable organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and others have been providing food and shelter for the Christian victims of Syria's civil war, both within Syria and in refugee camps in Lebanon.

One hundred miles south of Homs, in Damascus, Christians are suffering a similar fate. The Greek Catholic Archbishop there has reported that 40,000 Christians from the Syrian capital have fled or have been displaced. Church attendance has declined by 60 percent since 2011 and there were only 30 baptisms in 2012. More than 40 churches have been destroyed; priests and deacons have been murdered.

Sister Joseph-Marie Chanaa of the Sisters of Charity, who has been helping war-battered families, recently told representatives of Aid to the Church in Need that: "what is happening here is inhuman. Young people are abducted. Dead bodies are chopped up, the arms and legs are cut off and then cut into pieces." In April 2013, two Orthodox archbishops were kidnapped near the city of Aleppo. The prelates were returning from the Turkish border, having negotiated the release of two priests who had been taken as hostages. Their car was ambushed and the driver, a deacon, was murdered. The fate of the two Syrian archbishops has remained unknown to this day. There is no doubt that the lawlessness caused by the civil war in Syria has given radicals the opportunity to single out and to terrorize Christians.

Christians in Egypt are suffering a similar fate. Taking advantage of the chaos since President Mohamed Morsi was forced out of office and put under arrest, the Muslim Brotherhood has looted and destroyed more than 80 churches, scores of religious facilities, and untold numbers of Christian-run stores.

Many Christians have been abducted so extremists can extort ransom money. Complaints by Christians to the police about Islamist attacks and abuse have gone unheeded. To give the faithful some protection, the Coptic Patriarch wants to build walls around the cathedral in Alexandria and all ecclesiastical facilities in Korby El Korba.

Coptic-Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan of Assiut explained that "the [Muslim Brotherhood] thinks that the Christians were the cause of Morsi being ousted. But the Christians are not alone:  there were 35 million people who took to the streets in protest against Morsi. But Christians are being punished. We have been scapegoated." Egyptian Christians make up 10 percent of the total population of 85 million.

Bishop Samaan, who expressed hope that a new constitution will guarantee "the equality of all Egyptians - Christian as well as Muslims - before the law," is saddened by what he has called the indifference of the Western governments: "[They] are speaking about human rights, [but] do not see the reality of what is going on here. A group of terrorists have used arms against us. Western governments should not be supporting this."

Many young Christians have mobilized to defend their churches. In 12-hour-shifts they are stationed outside their churches to prevent attacks. A Spanish Comboni missionary, Sister Expedita Perez who has helped organize some of these watch groups, said that "Christians want to stand their ground and defend themselves from the terrorists. [Young Christians] are surrounding the churches alongside their other brothers in faith, both Orthodox and Protestant. We are all united."

Sadly, their brothers and sisters in the West - their governments and major media remaining pretty much mum - are largely unaware that ancient Christian communities are being dismantled and destroyed.

There is one new development. The US Senate is due to vote on a bill that would create at the State Department a new special envoy whose mandate is to speak out on behalf of vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. The bill, introduced by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.), was passed by the US House of Representatives in a lopsided vote, 402-22, Sept. 19.

But the State Department already commented that such a move would be "unnecessary, duplicative, and likely counterproductive." Two years ago the same bill was blocked from ever coming to a vote. The stakes are enormous, as Congressman Wolf made clear when, in making the case for the bill, he quoted German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died because of his opposition to the Nazi regime: "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."