WASHINGTON — More than 200 Christian representatives from a variety of denominations have united in support of a bipartisan congressional initiative to support Christians facing persecution in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
The “Pledge of Solidarity and Call to Action on Behalf of Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria” was launched May 7 by Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.
The initiative was started to address the silence Christians in the Middle East are “facing an existential threat to their presence in the lands where Christianity has its roots,” due to “abuse and injustice from extremist Islamic forces.”
“Recognizing the spiritual, humanitarian and geopolitical implications of this historic flight, we have joined together to affirm our moral obligation to speak and act in defense of religious freedom for all human beings,” the pledge stated.
The document explained the violence and persecution facing Christians in countries throughout the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, Iraq and Syria, where Christian refugees have fled due to persecution.
“Extremists and terrorist gangs are behind most of these incidents,” the document stated, adding that these acts “have been carried out largely with impunity and sometimes with the acquiescence of state and local authorities. It is their cumulative effect that has triggered the current massive exodus of Christians.”
The pledge urged Americans “to pray and speak with greater urgency about this human-rights crisis,” citing the “sense of abandonment felt by the Middle Eastern Churches” due to the West’s slow and limited response to the persecution facing Christians in the Middle East.
In response, the document pledged solidarity with those suffering persecution for their Christian beliefs and promised to “call together our own congregations and communities in sustained prayer, education and engagement” on behalf of threatened religious minorities in the Middle East.
The initiative also urged supporters to take action on behalf of Christians facing persecution in the Middle East.
“It is our conviction that American foreign policy can be more effectively used to advocate for policies that protect international religious freedom for all,” the pledge explained, calling for the creation of a special envoy on Middle East religious minorities, a review of foreig- aid terms to ensure funds support religious freedom and increased assistance for refugees and reconstruction of affected areas.
The pledge has gained signatures from a variety of Christian clergy and scholars, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Ghougassian, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Chairman Robert George, former Massachusetts Sen. Michael Dukakis, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Katharine Jefferts Schori, a bishop of the Episcopal Church, among others.
George Marlin, chairman of the board for Aid to the Church in Need USA, a Catholic relief organization, and signatory of the pledge, commented that the "blatant and violent campaign of Christian religious targeting and persecution” has created an urgent situation.
“The time to act is now,” he said, adding in a statement that it is also “time to call on our government for concrete action to protect these vulnerable communities and to urge the people in our parishes and congregations to pray for and support their persecuted brothers and sisters.”
“This is not a matter of pitting Christianity against Islam,” Marlin stressed, “but to put a halt to the abuses perpetrated by extremist Islamic factions bent on the destruction of Christianity — groups that inflict suffering on the general population as well.”