WASHINGTON (RNS) Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders joined forces on Wednesday (May 7) to call for an end to the silence over persecuted Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

“What we are seeing here is ecumenical cleansing,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who called the region “the unsafest place in the world for Christians.”

“It’s an ecumenical cleansing that is forcing people who are Christians, by whatever label, out of countries where their roots are from the beginning.”

Anderson and others were joined on Capitol Hill by the co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who have pushed for the appointment of a special envoy focused on Middle East religious minorities.

More than 180 clergy, seminary professors, authors and activists have signed a “pledge of solidarity and call to action” that advocates for the special envoy in addition to a regional review of U.S. foreign aid to ensure recipients uphold principles of pluralism and religious freedom. They also seek assurance that religious minorities receive fair access to U.S. refugee assistance.

“The current trajectory, marked by political violence and, in the cases of Iraq and Syria, full-blown war, risks a Middle East largely emptied of the millennia-old presence of Christians,” reads the statement, citing cases of executed Christians, demolished churches, kidnapped clergy and forced conversions.

The Rev. Andrew White, a chaplain at St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, speaks on Wednesday (May 7) at a news conference on Capitol Hill calling for action to aid Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

The Rev. Andrew White, a chaplain at St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, speaks on Wednesday (May 7) at a news conference on Capitol Hill calling for action to aid Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Wolf said he hopes the clergy involvement will help call greater attention to the plight of Christians and other religious minorities who are facing an “existential crisis which threatens their very survival.”

The Rev. Andrew White, a chaplain at St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, said the people he sees at a church-related clinic wonder if Christians in the West have forgotten them. He said the number of Christians in Iraq has dropped from a high of 1.5 million to about 200,000.

Members of his congregation are leaving, and he has personally been shot at and kidnapped and rebuilt his church after a bombing.

“So many have gone. All the time they leave and, I confess, I cry because my loved ones are leaving,” he said. “I used to say, ‘I’m not leaving you. Don’t you leave me.’ I can’t say that anymore because I know if my loved ones stay, they might be killed. I know that if my loved ones remain, the chance of them surviving is very little.”

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl said that if people wonder how atrocities like this violence and persecution can be occurring, it is because others are silent.

“If history has any lesson to teach us about silence, it’s not a good one,” he said, urging both the churches and lawmakers to take action to protect the religious freedom of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan speaks on Wednesday (May 7) at a news conference on Capitol Hill calling for action to aid Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan speaks on Wednesday (May 7) at a news conference on Capitol Hill calling for action to aid Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America said that while there has been humanitarian aid from the West, there has not been enough attention to the growing discrimination and hardship facing Mideast Christians.

“It is not an exaggeration to state that today Christians in the Middle East are experiencing one of the darkest days since the persecutions during the early years of Christianity,” he said.

Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, held up his phone and played a clip of Egyptian television’s coverage of a Christian who was beheaded.

“They should not have their head cut off, they should not be stoned, their houses and their churches should not be burned,” he said, “and when they are, we must speak up and tell these stories.”

KRE/MG END BANKS

7 Comments

  1. I have news for all Christians and everyone else. No one anywhere should be forgotten, and everyone should be considered of full and equal worth no matter what religion or no religion at all.

    Religion is belief, not fact, not science.

    For that reason there must be absolute freedom for everyone to believe as they are convinced–as long as those beliefs to not interfere with any rights of anyone else. And non-belief must be respected every bit as much as any belief.

  2. Yes, Christians in the Middle East, the Balkans, Armenia, Africa and every other country where jihad raises its ugly head have been has been ignored. Why? The answer doesn’t fit with the narrative of multiculturalism and social justice of the mainline Christians who have given up the Gospel of Christ for the gospel of nice.

    And, for too long, the Christians have been endlessly divided over their own interpretations of Christian doctrine. United we stand, divided we fall. And we will fall to Islamic jihad if there is no recognition that war was declared on us 1,400 years ago, that it wanes and waxes, but never stops.

    • strugglingtostayum

      So agree!! I have been at odds with the UMC over their UNITY stand. How can we stand in unity when that person is trying to kill Christians. It is time to call it like it is and, as you said, quit trying to play nice. I have no right to kill someone or abuse anyone because they are Muslim/Islamic but I have the right to speak out. The comment that “it is only radicals” just will no longer work. If “radicals” in the UMC were out killing/trafficking in children and women/condemning to death a pregnant woman because she is Christian I would expect the WHOLE UMC to renounce them and kick them out of the church. Until the “peaceful” Muslims speak out and kick them out of the Islamic faith, this will never end. And realize, there are those that think Sharia law should be allowed in the USA.

  3. Israeli Palestinian Christians must be added to this list. They are excluded from all economic life in Israel. They are being squeezed out of Jerusalem neighborhoods by ultra-Orthodox Jews, their lands have been stolen by Jewish settlements, they are denied decent education and university access. Their access to jobs is curtailed by the Wall of Separation. Many have been jailed. Most young families are immigrating out of the country, leaving the older generation isolated and dying alone. This is purposeful strategy by the Zionist government to rid both Israel and Palestine of all non-Jews.

    • They don’t get any respect from the Palestinian governments either. They are persona non grata in Gaza-stan and completely pushed to the margins in The People’s Republic of Fatah. Neither the Arab League nor Iranian sugar daddies to the Palestinians care a bit about the Christians among them.

      There is ethnic cleansing going on but its mostly due to fellow Palestinians and their economic/military backers.

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