They state: “The issue of Christian presence in the Middle East has gone beyond the state of calling for equal rights and protection from persecution. It has become a cry of warning before further events cause the annihilation of Christian presence in the Middle East.”
Writing in solidarity with leaders of the Eastern Christian churches, their letter is to the worldwide Protestant and evangelical community, noting that the actions of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) verges “on being a bona fide genocide.”
Their statement is being circulated at a time when Western governments are cobbling together war plans to defeat ISIS and to redress the situation in Syria, where the death toll approaches 200,000 and more than 3 million people have fled into neighboring countries.
Regrettably, misunderstanding about the plight of Christians in the Middle East is widespread in the United States. Sen. Ted Cruz’s unfortunate remarks at the recent “Defense of Christians” conference are but one example of the lack of understanding about Christianity in the Middle East.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat rightly notes that the Christian community there has had “a fatal invisibility” in the West. He identifies three reasons for this: (1) the political left really doesn’t see Christians as persecuted; (2) the right really doesn’t get Orthodox Christianity in the Middle East and thinks only of Israel; and (3) the foreign policy class doesn’t think the Christian minority is large enough to matter.
Clearly, the declaration of emergency is intended to gain visibility in the West.
Two of the signatories are Baptist friends of mine from Lebanon, both of who have been in Nashville this year.
The evangelical community in Syria and Lebanon needs our help. Their call for action to American Protestants and evangelicals is straightforward:
First, raise awareness with government leaders about the “immanent dangers,” encouraging action that ends the forced displacement of civilians from their countries of origin, halts “indiscriminate murder,” and stops financial and arms flow to radical groups.
Second, fund institutions to spread the values of religious pluralism, human rights, justice and peace.
Third, send more humanitarian aid for victims of ongoing violence.
The declaration said that evangelical and Protestant Christians “must work towards strengthening our sustainable joint communal living with our Muslim brothers and sisters in spite of the widening confessional conflicts and the ever-growing cycle of senseless violence.”
Will American church leaders hear and respond energetically to a distress call from a distant corner of the church?
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