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A Pledge of Solidarity and Call to Action for Religious Freedom in the Middle East

May 8, 2014

[Note: On Wednesday, May 7, a broad array of American Christians joined together in a “pledge of solidarity and call to action” on behalf of the suffering churches of Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. The following remarks were presented at a press conference for the event.]

It’s a privilege to join with other faith leaders to help draw attention to the plight of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and members of other faith communities in the Middle East. We are witnessing the wholesale persecution of Christian and other faith groups in countries like Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. The stories of rape, robbery, dispossession, brutality, and murder coming out of this region on a daily basis are deeply disturbing. We cannot sit by while our brothers and sisters in Christ and other peace-loving people of faith are subjected to such barbarism.

There was a time when there were 600,000 Chaldean Christians in Baghdad alone. Today there are less than 400,000 in the entire country of Iraq. The words of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, last December: "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?" should stir all of us to action.

The United States government, the faith community, and all people of peace should begin immediately to run to the defense of these special people who choose not to retaliate against their attackers. Their response of grace reminds me of the suffering of Jesus Himself when He willingly took the abuse of his captors and did not strike back.

These embattled communities are looking to us for their rescue. They are the people Jesus mentioned in Matthew 25. We will be held accountable one day for the way we responded to them in their hour of need. May the Lord declare us faithful and fitting recipients of the glory to come because we did not shrink back from this need, but reached out to these men, women, and children created in His image, for whom Christ died.

I urge all Christians to read the pledge being released today and join with us to help bring an end to the persecution of these people of faith. It is my hope and prayer that today will be known as the day their relief began. We must join together in prayer, advocacy, and acts of mercy and grace from this day and onward until Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, faithful and faithless live together in the Middle East in peaceful harmony. We can and should do no less.