On May 7th, 2014 and on the Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. , history is being made. On behalf of the suffering churches of Egypt, Iraq and Syria, a broad array of American Christians, with a degree of unity rarely seen since the Council of Nicaea in 325, have joined together in a “pledge of solidarity and call to action.” Their action results from deepening concern about the “wave of persecution” in the region of Christianity’s roots. The American Christian leaders who signed the pledge commit to work within their congregations and communities to pray, educate and engage in foreign policy on behalf of these endangered fellow Christians and the other small religious groups who are similarly vulnerable.
In the “We the People” tradition, the pledge is a grass roots effort, with input from many sources. It is being released publicly on Wednesday morning by Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), but it does not have any particular institutional sponsor nor a political leader spearheading it.
Some 200 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders have signed on — from Catholic Cardinal Wuerl, to National Association of Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, to Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan. They include many lay civic society leaders including many concerned Iraqi American leaders, including Robert George of Princeton University, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, journalist Kirsten Powers, George Marlin, chair of Aid to the Church in Need-USA, and Lynne Hybels of Global Engagement of the Willow Creek Church. These Christian leaders have come together across faith traditions and political affiliations in response to the increasingly dire appeals from Middle Eastern Christians. As Baghdad’s Catholic Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako recently cried out: “We feel forgotten and isolated. We sometimes wonder, if they kill us all, what would be the reaction of Christians in the West? Would they do something then?”. Patriarch Sako addressed the event participants with an appeal to stop Iraqi Christians migration and to help mitigate the serious challenges they are facing in Iraq . The appeal was read by Joseph T. Kassab, President of Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute. Kassab echoed Patriarch Sako appeal by asking America’s church leaders to together save the Christians in the land of the cradle and to not leave them alone. Kassab asked the Church leaders to urge President Obama to live up to his pledge to Pope Frances when he reaffirmed his Holiness: ” It is central to U.S. Foreign Policy that we protect the interest of the religious minorities around the world “.
The American Christian leaders who signed the pledge commit to work within their congregations and communities to pray, educate and engage in foreign policy on behalf of these endangered fellow Christians and the other small religious groups who are similarly vulnerable. Asking “all people of good will” to join this effort, they also call on America’s elected leaders to act to adopt three specific diplomatic and foreign and humanitarian aid steps. While promoting religious freedom is already a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, as the pledge concludes, “now, new action is desperately needed by our churches, our government and our civil society institutions here in the United States, and by all people of good will to make that objective a reality.”
In a few days, Congressman Frank Wolf with enter the Pledge and its list of signers into the Congressional Record. If you would like to be a signatory to the Pledge, please send me your name and title as you would like them to appear by Monday, May 12. The Pledge, can be accessed here: http://www.hudson.org/research/10274-american-christians-pledge-solidarity-with-persecuted-christians-in-egypt-iraq-and-syria I hope you will consider it.
We are very much grateful to the relentless and persistent effort of US Representatives Frank Wolf and Anna Eshoo and Nina Shea, director and senior scholar, Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom in supporting the freedom of religion and the plight of the religious minorities.
US Representative Frank Wolf and Anna Eshoo
Nina Shea , Director and Senior Scholar , Hudson Institute. Center for Religious Freedom
H. E. Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan, Armenian Apostolic Church of America
Barrett Duke reads statement from Russell Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethnic &Religious Liberty Commission
H. E. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C. delivered a powerful message
Canon Andrew White. Chaplain of St. George Anglican Church “The Vicar of Baghdad”
The US Representative Cannon Building at the Capitol Hill was full of supporters and National Media