By / Apr 23

On April 20, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2021 annual report. As the report mentions, USCIRF was created as a result of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). USCIRF “is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body, separate from the U.S. Department of State, that monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress.”

The recommendations in USCIRF’s report are based “on its statutory mandate and the standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents.” The report, which in its current form is 108 pages long, assesses religious freedom violations and progress during calendar year 2020 in 26 countries and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy for both the Biden administration and for Congress.

The report’s primary focus is on two groups of countries. The first group includes those countries that USCIRF recommends the State Department should designate as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs). IRFA defines CPCs as countries where the government engages in or tolerates “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom, such as torture or prolonged detention without trial. The second group are countries that USCIRF recommends the State Department should place on its Special Watch List (SWL). The SWL is for countries where the government engages in or tolerates “severe” violations of religious freedom that are ongoing and egregious. In addition to these groups, the report also includes USCIRF’s recommendations of violent nonstate actors for designation by the State Department as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs). 

In this year’s report, USCIRF recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as CPCs. Ten countries were previously designated as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Four other countries are also recommended to be added: India, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam. 

The report also recommends 12 countries be included on the SWL. Two countries—Cuba and Nicaragua—had previously been included on the list. The 10 other countries recommended for inclusion are Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. 

Finally, seven nonstate actors are recommended to be designated as EPCs: al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), and the Taliban.

The ERLC is deeply committed to advocating for religious freedom around the world. In 2019, we released a short film titled “Humanity Denied: Religious Freedom in North Korea.” The film features defectors from North Korea as well as church leaders and human rights activists in South Korea. China has increased its persecution of Christians, Uyghur Muslims, and other ethnic and religious minorities. This is extremely concerning, and the ERLC has been calling on the U.S. government to hold China accountable for their religious freedom abuses and to counter China morally.

In addition to country-specific advocacy, the ERLC has also worked on initiatives to fight against blasphemy laws and the rise of anti-Semitism. We are dedicated to advocating for the vulnerable and oppressed around the world and to fighting for the rights of our persecuted brothers and sisters.

ERLC is grateful for the work of the USCIRF and encourages all Christians to support the work of this advisory body. We can also use this report, as we do resources from the Joshua Project and Operation World, as a prayer guide for the nations and for persecuted Christians around the globe. Here are four ways, recommended by Casey B. Hough, that Christians can use USCIRF’s annual report in daily prayer for the nations:

  1. We can pray for the endurance and faithfulness of Christians who live in the countries listed in the report.
  2. We can pray for those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ because of the difficulties that missionaries encounter with the government.
  3. We can pray with gratefulness to God for the religious freedom that he has granted us at this time in history.
  4. Finally, we can pray for God to use the efforts of USCIRF and other international organizations to quell the religious freedom violations that exist around the world so that the gospel might advance without hindrance (Col. 4:3).
By / Feb 12

In the opening lines of last week’s executive order addressing the country’s refugee program, President Biden wrote, “the long tradition of the United States as a leader in refugee resettlement provides a beacon of hope for persecuted people around the world.” Sadly, the rising tide of nationalism in our politics has dimmed that once bright light. There is much work to be done if America is to, in Biden’s words, lead again. Critical to that work is the rebuilding of a refugee resettlement program that honors our nation’s rich history of welcoming the world’s most vulnerable.

The President is charged with determining the maximum number of people allowed entry through the refugee process. The number, while set by the White House, represents an annual conclusion of a worthwhile debate throughout Washington. It’s a debate in which the ERLC is regularly engaged.

During the 2020 campaign, President Biden promised to “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time.” While the administration’s recent executive order marks an encouraging move toward relighting that beacon, the refugee ceiling is the critical next step.

Among other directives, the order begins a wide ranging review of the federal government’s refugee resettlement procedures. For example, the order directs the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to designate a senior-level employee in their departments to focus on the refugee application process. Among the specific reviews ordered is the nation’s policy which grants Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan allies.

The refugee program has long enjoyed both broad bipartisan support in Congress and in the communities these men and women have enriched, including many Southern Baptist churches. The vetting procedures for refugees were already the strongest of any category of immigrants, and these security procedures have been further strengthened. This program tells an important story about who we are as a nation. It has enabled remarkable talents to become Americans and pursue the American dream such as Vietnamese refugee David Tran who created the popular Sriracha hot sauce.

Since the Refugee Act of 1980, the resettlement ceiling before the Trump Administration ranged from as high as 230,000 to as low 67,000. The historic average over the decades hovered near 95,000. President Trump first set the refugee ceiling at 50,000 in 2017 and then cut it each year, leaving it at 15,000 for 2021.

This precipitous drop not only closed the door to many of our own brothers and sisters abroad in the persecuted church seeking safe harbor, but it also starved the resettlement pipeline needed to provide that harbor in America. Integrating these families seeking refuge in our local communities requires the ongoing partnership of government offices and non-profit agencies. Without refugees moving through the line, many agencies shutter. This leaves our future capability to serve in peril.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which the ERLC is a member, responded last Friday to President Biden’s order noting both appreciation of this first step but also urging him to follow through on his commitment to officially raise the ceiling.

In the EIT press release, Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, explained how, “our advocacy for religious minorities in peril around the world, whether they be Uyghurs in China or Christians in Syria, is a priority of our work at the ERLC.” Moore also said it was his “prayer that Christians will lead the revitalization of America’s commitment to be a beacon of freedom and safe harbor for the oppressed and persecuted.”

As vaccines and treatments help the world climb out from under the coronavirus pandemic, we ought to use this time of restricted global travel to rebuild the resettlement infrastructure. We should invest now in the infrastructure needed for overseas processing and help resettlement agencies in the U.S. rebuild so that when our door is able to be reopened, our welcome mat is ready. Instrumental to this process are faith-based organizations who partner with local churches to welcome refugees as our new American neighbors.

By / Jan 22

In this episode, Josh, Brent, Julie, and Meagan discuss the inauguration, QAnon in light of Trump leaving the White House, the new COVID-19 variant, Uyghurs “genocide,” the four nominees for SBC president, the March for Life going virtual this year, and the states Americans are choosing to work from home in. Julie also gives a rundown of some of the ERLC’s most popular content from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About Julie

Julie Masson serves as Director of External Engagement for the ERLC. She is responsible for strategic planning, development and implementation of the ERLC brand strategy across all ERLC departments and provides leadership and oversight for the ERLC marketing team as well as coordinating external affairs and partnership deliverables. Julie and her husband Jesse spent two years in Spain with the International Mission Board before moving to Kansas City where they live with their three children. She is a graduate of Iowa State University. You can connect with her on Twitter: @juliermasson


  1. Joe Biden sworn in as 46th president of the United States
  2. Trump departs on final Air Force One flight
  3. QAnon reels following inauguration
  5. New California Variant May Be Driving Virus Surge There, Study Suggests
  6. Field of Flags’ put on display at the National Mall ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration
  7. U.S. declares China’s actions against Uyghurs “genocide”
  8. Randy Adams announced as nominee for SBC president
  9. Pastor @EdLitton to be third candidate for SBC president
  10. The states Americans headed to the most in 2020, according to U-Haul


 Connect with us on Twitter


  • A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Your Children About Gender: by Jared Kennedy. This short book walks through six conversation topics designed to help you apply the truth and hope of the gospel to the complex issue of gender. 
  • Stand for Life: At the ERLC, we stand for life. Our work to save preborn babies and care for the vulnerable is vital to our work. Believing that abortion can end in our lifetime, will you join us as we STAND FOR LIFE?
By / Jan 19

Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an official determination that the People’s Republic of China is “committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, for targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” This announcement comes on Secretary Pompeo’s last day in office and a day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. According to Axios, the U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party’s unconscionable human rights abuses in its far northwest.

Some of the reasons cited for the determination include “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.” 

Secretary Pompeo stated that one of the key facts in his determination was the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to severely oppress Uyghur women with draconian birth control measures. Uyghur women are subjected to forced pregnancy checks, medication that stops their menstrual period, forced abortions, and surgical sterilizations. One of the major reasons that Uyghur women are sent to the internment camps is for having too many children. China’s goal, it seems, is to eradicate future generations of Uyghurs by manipulating who can and can’t bear children, and how many children a family can legally conceive. 

Why does this declaration of genocide against Uyghurs matter?

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against Uyghur Muslims, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group. The geographic scope of the CCP’s campaign against Uyghurs is global, but primarily restricted to Xinjiang, China’s western-most territory, where Uyghurs have lived for centuries. Under the guise of national security, the CCP is seeking to “pacify” the region with totalitarian tactics like pervasive surveillance, thought control, ideological reeducation, forced birth control, and compulsory labor. Once Chinese police detain a Uyghur for questioning, they are often sent away for “political reeducation.” China has constructed upward of 1,000 internment camps for this purpose. Estimates vary, but experts posit that China has detained between 1 million and 3 million Muslims in these facilities. Aside from political indoctrination, physical and psychological abuse is commonplace throughout these camps, ranging from rape and torture to malnourishment and forced organ harvesting

The CCP also uses these camps to break apart Uyghur families. In cases where Uyghur husbands are sent off to camps, China has sent ethnically Han men to rape, and forcibly procreate with, the wives who are left behind. In some cases, where both the mother and father are detained, the CCP has sent Uyghur children to government-run boarding schools where all communication with the outside world is strictly regulated.

Members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a bipartisan letter asking that the Administration make an official determination as to whether the Chinese government is responsible for perpetrating atrocity crimes, including genocide, against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic minorities. Additionally, Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bipartisan resolution to designate human rights abuses perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as genocide. 

What is genocide?

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The acts enumerated include:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

A genocide determination sends a powerful signal to the international community that the United States will not remain silent in the face of the CCP’s atrocities towards the Uyghur people.

What’s next after this declaration of genocide?

Secretary Pompeo called upon the People’s Republic of China “immediately to release all arbitrarily detained persons and abolish its system of internment, detention camps, house arrest and forced labor; cease coercive population control measures, including forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced birth control, and the removal of children from their families; end all torture and abuse in places of detention; end the persecution of Uyghurs and other members of religious and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, and afford Uyghurs and other persecuted minorities the freedom to travel and emigrate.”

Additionally, he called on “all appropriate multilateral and relevant juridical bodies, to join the United States in our effort to promote accountability for those responsible for these atrocities.”

“The Chinese government’s atrocities against the Uyghur people in Xingjiang is clearly genocide. I welcome the State Department’s recognition of it as such. The world must not turn our eyes away from this genocide against human beings made in the image of God. I pray that President-elect Biden and Secretary-designate Blinken will have great success in rallying our nation and our allies to stand against this injustice. We can never again allow genocide to go unnoticed and unanswered. In addition, I urge the business community to take seriously what is happening to this imperiled religious minority.  Few issues these days seem to transcend our country’s partisan divisions, but this should be one of them,” Russell Moore stated.

How has the ERLC advocated for persecuted people?

In December, Dr. Moore sent Secretary Pompeo a letter urging him to issue a genocide determination. Additionally, the ERLC has been advocating for the Uyghur Forced Labor Act, which prohibits goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang region or by entities using Uyghur labor forcibly transferred from Xinjiang from entering the U.S. market. The ERLC hosted a high-level discussion on the Uyghur situation in China and shared ways pastors and Christians can get involved and help. The ERLC will continue working to counter China morally, and will continue to stand up for persecuted people.

By / Oct 20

During the current 45th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the ERLC advocated for the religious freedom of children in China. The ERLC joined the Jubilee Campaign and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in issuing a written statement to the UNHRC. The joint statement condemns the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its continued religious persecution of children in China.

How is China persecuting children?

Over the last decade, China has increased its persecution of religious minorities. In its efforts to “sinicize” religious belief, that is, subjugate religious belief to the demands of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese government is attempting to erode independent practice of religion altogether. Sadly, children in China are not immune to such persecution.

Since releasing its Regulation on Religious Affairs in 2017, China has escalated its suppression of the religious liberty of Chinese children. Following the CCP’s Regulations on Religious Affairs, Chinese government officials have prohibited minors from attending any “religious-based activities.” They have enforced this by forcing children away from religious activities and interrogating them for holding religious beliefs. Government authorities are also confiscating Bibles and religious literature.

Two years ago, the CCP closed kindergartens because they were founded and operated by churches. In 2019, Chinese authorities stormed a Catholic mass in Zhengzhou and forced out all of the children. Police monitored the church for weeks to ensure no children, including infants, attended mass. Chinese police also entered a Guangdong province house church camp last summer and arrested the preacher. The police interrogated the church members and registered the names of all children in attendance.

Last August, the Xiaodian District Civil Affairs Bureau raided the Bethany Home for Children with Disabilities and sent the children away to state-run orphanages. The Home, founded by a Catholic nun, was the only home the children have known.  

In addition to these heinous actions, the CCP continues to persecute the Uyghur people, separating Uyghur children from their families and placing them in state institutions.

What does the U.N. Human Rights Council say about religious liberty?

The CCP’s religious persecution directly violates Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides the international framework for freedom of religion or belief for children. Article 14 declares that, “States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Additionally, China is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 18 of the ICCPR states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

What actions should the United Nations take?

The ERLC, the Jubilee Campaign, and ADF strongly condemn China’s persecution of children. We urge them to end all government actions that deny children the freedom to practice their religious beliefs. Specifically, China must immediately repeal the 2017 Regulations on Religious Affairs as it unjustly restricts the religious freedoms of religious minorities in China.

The U.N. Human Rights Council must speak clearly about these abuses and condemn China’s failure to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Council has a number of tools at its disposal to address these issues and must take action. Such action will be more difficult because of China’s recent election to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but this makes Council action even more crucial, to preserve the legitimacy of the Council itself. 

ERLC intern Justin McDowell contributed to this article. 

By / Oct 14

In recent years, the Chinese government has escalated its persecution of religious minorities. The communist regime is using totalitarian tactics of forced labor, mass sterilization, and pervasive surveillance targeting Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Since 2017, China has detained more than one million Uyghurs in concentration camps. Countering China morally for these atrocities is a key part of the ERLC’s international engagement. To continue that work, Jeff Pickering and Chelsea Patterson Sobolik welcomed Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios to share her reporting on China.

“China is committing a cultural genocide against an ethnic minority and the world is basically, hardly even blinking. And that matters because this shows the kind of government, and the kind of ideology, that is driving what will be the most powerful country later in the 21st century.”– Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Axios China

Guest Biography

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is the China reporter at Axios, where she covers China’s influence in the United States and abroad. Before joining Axios, she served as the lead reporter for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ China Cables project, a major leak of classified Chinese government documents revealing the inner workings of mass internment camps in Xinjiang. She also previously worked as a national security reporter for The Daily Beast and as an editor and reporter for Foreign Policy magazine. Allen-Ebrahimian holds a Masters in East Asian studies from Yale University. She is the author of the weekly Axios China newsletter. 

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jan 14

Since the first mission movements of the Early Church, Assyrian (Syriac) churches have never failed to maintain a confessional Christian presence in or near their original lands. If the current crisis facing northeastern Syria worsens, ancient Christian communities dating back to the Book of Acts might soon be deserted. The last remnants of this people group could be driven out of their homeland and their churches destroyed.  

In the last few months, things have grown increasingly dangerous for those who remain in northeastern Syria. Following the abrupt removal of U.S. troops in October 2019, Turkish forces immediately resumed attacks in the region using soldiers, warplanes, and drone strikes. Though their primary targets are allegedly Kurdish forces, the reality is that Turkey has been attacking indiscriminately and recklessly leading to the deaths or serious injury of many Christians and civilians, including children. To add to the imminent danger, the temporary leave taken by U.S. forces allowed for the reemergence of ISIS in the areas where Syriac churches and their families remain.   

Assyrian Christians in history and around the world

Assyrian Christians trace their ethnic roots back to the days of Abraham, and their Christian faith roots to the Early Church. As the gospel moved East during the first century, small Christian communities emerged quickly in ancient Assyria. As a result, for nearly two millennia now, Assyrian Christianity has maintained an indigenous presence in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.  

Assyrian Christians not only have some of the deepest roots in the history of the Church, they also worship in one of the most sacred languages. The congregations of the Assyrians are often called “Syriac” churches because they speak, pray, sing, and read in a modern form of ancient Syriac. Syriac is a subset of Aramaic, which was the language spoken by Jesus and many of the earliest Jewish-background believers.  

As the Imperial Church became more formalized in the late Roman Empire, the Assyrians were often on the outside looking in. Syriac churches lacked representation in both Rome and Constantinople, which meant they did not play a significant role in either Western or Eastern Christendom.  

Throughout the centuries that followed and up until now, Assyrian Christians have endured sustained periods of persecution and attempts of genocide, most recently in the last century from the Turks. As a result, they have much fewer members than in centuries past, even with the exponential growth in the world’s population.   

The oldest form of Syriac Christianity, the Assyrian Church of the East, is today very small, with best estimates being between 300,000–400,000 members globally. Several other groups consider themselves Syriac Christians, including the Chaldeans, Jacobites, and even some Protestant/Evangelical strains. All combined, best estimates are that the adherents of this ancient form of confessional Christianity number somewhere around 4 million.  

Since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, thousands of Assyrian Christians have fled northeastern Syria into surrounding countries. A similar exodus took place in Iraq a decade before, following the U.S withdrawal from that region. Some have even emigrated to Europe and the U.S., adding to the growing Assyrian Christian diaspora around the world.   

The Assyrian Christians must be seen, and their stories should be heard and retold.

The Western influence of these churches is steadily growing. In Chicago and its surrounding areas, for example, there are nearly 100,000 Assyrian Christians and several Syriac churches  

The migration of many Assyrians into the West does not reduce the immense historical and spiritual value of their original lands and traditions. Even those who no longer live in northeastern Syria still feel a sense of unity with the ancient body of Christ simply in knowing a presence remains in the places where their faith began.   

Happening right now

Even after the U.S. reversed its decision to withdraw from the region and ultimately  redeployed troops into Syria, Christian sources on the ground dispute claims that an actual cease-fire has yet to happen.  

Among the cities in the most imminent danger are two bastions of ancient Assyrian Christianity: Qamishli and Tel Tamr (Tal Tamer/Til Temir).  

In Qamishli, the larger of the two cities, the Christian community immediately released a statement of concern following the October reports of the U.S. withdrawal of troops. Their fears quickly became a reality. According to Mindy Belz of World, who continually provides comprehensive reporting in the area, “Qamishli and this region have been roiled with ISIS sleeper cells and Turkish-backed militias since October’s U.S. pullout from key border points, which precipitated an invasion by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”   

In November 2019, a series of attacks by ISIS were perpetrated in Qamishli in which Christians were targeted. Belz was across the street from one of the locations where a car bomb exploded, killing seven people and wounding dozens more. Belz reflects on her own brush with terror:   

“In America we absorb this news from a studied distance. In Qamishli, I didn’t have that option. I watched as shopkeepers moved toward the flames. They jumped atop fire trucks, carried out dead and wounded, and later joined workers who spent hours upon hours sweeping glass and debris from the streets. The next day much of the street reopened for business, and men sat brazenly on the sidewalk.” [full article]  

The number of Christians in Qamishli had already seen a dramatic decrease from 2011 to 2018, from around 25,000 to around 12,000. Following these tragic events in recent weeks, one can only surmise that many more Assyrian Christians, even among the most resilient of them, will leave Qamishli. Soon there could be no more Syriac churches remaining.  

In the smaller Tel Tamr, the situation could be even more bleak. Tel Tamr and its surrounding villages was home to 20,000 Assyrian Christians just five years ago. Now, only around 1,200 remain. The imminent danger from conflicts involving Turkish forces, the Syrian National Army (SNA), and the threat of ISIS could easily cause this city with its pivotal Syriac community to become completely deserted. In November, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria released a video of ISIS members claiming they had “cut the road to Til Temir and we are marching towards the town.”  

According to Sylvain Mercadier of the Iraqi/Kurdish media outlet Rudaw, “If Tel Tamr falls . . . the ancient Christian presence in North-Eastern Syria will come to an end.”   

This is a story Assyrian Christians have seen before.  

In 2015, ISIS invaded the nearby Christian community of Tel Tal and destroyed many of its churches. They also kidnapped more than 220 people and held them for outrageous ransom amounts. Since that time, 90% of Assyrian Christians have fled, and less than a thousand remain. Where there were churches in 30 villages in the region before that time, now only one church still holds regular services.  

All of this leads many Assyrian Christians to ask: Will there be an ancient Christian presence—either in flesh and blood, brick and mortar, or stone and mud left in Syria in the next decade?  

What can be done?

A consistent theme emerges in every article, report, and interview regarding the Assyrians in their homeland: They must receive help from the international community, including further support from the U.S. and our allies.  

Thankfully, there is overwhelming bi-partisan support for maintaining a reasonable, yet strong presence in northeastern Syria. This is, in part, to help protect our allies such as the Kurds and to continue to eradicate terror groups. There is also the goal of protecting the Syrian people themselves and helping them maintain their homes and identities in their own lands.  

Assyrian families and churches simply cannot survive these conflicts and threats of terrorism alone. They need our government and church leaders to pay attention and renew our support.  

This is where we who are their brothers and sisters in Christ and part of the global Christian community must take notice.   

  1. The Assyrian Christians must be seen, and their stories should be heard and retold.  
  2. As our understanding of their situation deepens, our intercession for them in our prayer lives must also deepen.  
  3. There are several great organizations and leaders working on the frontlines of this crisis. Many are working directly with Syriac Christians and other vulnerable people who are made in God’s image, and our support can make a difference right now.   
  4. We must speak up in support of the immense value of their lives, homes, and freedom—including their religious freedom. As Americans, we have voices to raise to elected officials and others who affect international policies and diplomacy. The bottom line is that stability and wholeness will not be achieved in northeastern Syria without our continued involvement.  

There is little to no time left. If the few Christian families and churches remaining in northeastern Syria are not protected, this may well be the last few months for ancient Assyrian Christian communities in their homeland.  


  1. Christoph Baumer, The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity (Bloomsbury, 2016).
  2. Sylvain Mercadier, “Tel Tamr: the last Assyrian frontline,” Rudaw (12/1/19):   
  3. Jayson Casper, “Syrian Christians Brave Insecurity to Stay Behind and Help,” Christianity Today (10/18/19):   
  4. Casper, “Syrian Christians to US: ‘Don’t Abandon Us Now’,” Christianity Today (10/8/19) :
  5. Belz, Mindy, “In the house of mourning: Syrians want ‘our pain to reach your government’,”  World (11/21/19):
  6. Belz, “Attacks in Syria target Christians, civilians,” World (11/12/19):
  7. Belz, “Witness to atrocities: Refugees attest to indiscriminate killings by Turkish fighters as the Trump administration reverses course, sends troops back into Syria,” World (11/11/19): 
  8. Belz, “A cruel withdrawal: The departure of U.S. forces from Syria allows Turkish forces to target civilians with atrocities—even during a U.S.-brokered cease-fire,” World (11/9/19):
  9. Makini Brice, “U.S. Republicans join Democrats to blast Syria withdrawal)” Reuters (10/7/19):
  10. Marlo Safi, “Closure of Syrian Schools: Another Bleak Sign for Christians in Syria,” National Review (9/25/18):
  11. Ben Hubbard, “ ‘There Are No Girls Left: Syria’s Christian Villages Hollowed Out by ISIS,” New York Times (8/15/18):
  12. Robert Herguth, “Chicago immigrant: Assyrians suffered ‘so much’ but ‘still have hope’,” Chicago Sun-Times (3/7/18):
  13. Karwan Faidhi Dri, “Turkish shelling kills at least 10 civilians, mostly children, in NW Syria: local sources,” Rudaw (12/2/19): 
  14. Carl Anderson, “A mass Christian exodus from the Middle East would be a catastrophe,” New York Post (11/15/19): 
By / Nov 18

Around the world, Christians increasingly face harassment, arbitrary imprisonment, and even death because of their faith. An independent review in the U.K. found this summer that Christians were on the receiving end of 80% of religiously motivated discrimination around the world. Open Doors USA estimates that 245 million Christians currently face persecution for their faith. Despite the severity of this problem, the American church has not always given this issue the attention it deserves. 

From the church’s earliest days, followers of Jesus have been persecuted. Unfortunately, persecution still widely persists today, and the threats to religious freedom have grown more diverse than ever, making them harder to address. Nevertheless, around the world, Christians courageously stand in the face of serious threats from authoritarian governments, extremist groups, and social hostility.  

Sadly, examples of persecution are everywhere. In China, unregistered house churches are shut down and destroyed, while state-sanctioned churches are required to comply with Communist party doctrine. In Nigeria, the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen attacked Christian farming villages and targeted Christians to kidnap and kill. Iran sentences Christian converts (even a 65-year-old woman) to prison for “acting against national security.” Across the world, and particularly in the Middle East, apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws threaten individuals’ ability to choose or change their faith—as demonstrated in the case of Asia Bibi, a mother targeted by her neighbors because of her Christian identity.

How Christians in America should respond 

Christians around the world who are simply trying to live out their faith face countless situations like these. But just because Christians are persecuted overseas, do we Christians in America have a duty to respond? Scripture says we do. 

In a well-known passage, the writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3). Jesus himself said that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). The “least” includes those the sick and imprisoned. 

Persecution is a trial that the early church knew well. Even before the New Testament canon was written, Christians were beginning to experience persecution for their beliefs. In response, the Apostle Paul—a one-time persecutor himself—pointed readers to an important truth: unity ought to characterize Christ’s church, in times of persecution as in times of reprieve. He rebuked the Corinthians, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:26).

In the same way that it hurts to watch a family member get mistreated, when a member of the body of Christ is bullied or harassed, it is the responsibility of the rest of the body to speak out and provide relief.

In many ways, the church in Corinth is like Christian churches in Western countries; we are beset by division and controversy. But Paul reminded the Corinthians that Christians all belong to the same body. The same principle applies to how Christians in Western countries ought to respond to the persecuted church: because we are part of the same body, their suffering is our suffering. We must not be silent.

Another frequent metaphor Scripture uses to describe the unity of believers is that of a family. After his resurrection, Jesus refers to his disciples (who he formerly described as servants and friends) as “brothers” (John 20:17). Paul refers to Christians as “children of God” and “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). In the same way that it hurts to watch a family member get mistreated, when a member of the body of Christ is bullied or harassed, it is the responsibility of the rest of the body to speak out and provide relief. This is what the writer of Hebrews meant when he called on believers to remember those in prison as one way to “let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1).

The message of the gospel reconciles sinful humans to a righteous God. In the process, the gospel reconciles Christians to each other. It reconciles people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and life experiences (Rev 7:9) into one body where they share a common faith, hope, and love. The gospel must inform the way Christians think about the scourge of persecution ravaging parts of the church around the world.

There are many ways to pray for persecuted Christians. The following are a few points worth raising in prayer: 

  1. Pray that God would strengthen persecuted Christians with faith to withstand the often violent persecution. 
  2. Pray that God would meet the physical needs of persecuted Christians, especially those who are ostracized from the community or forced to leave their homeland.  
  3. Pray that government and non-government actors persecuting believers would stop, and that religious freedom would become the universal standard across the globe. 

Let us remember our persecuted brothers and sisters who are in need. Caring for, praying for, and advocating on behalf of Christians facing persecution is the only appropriate response to the evil of religious oppression.

By / Oct 9

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 8, 2019—Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, commended the new U.S. restrictions placed on Chinese officials and organizations responsible for the horrific religious persecution in the Chinese region of Xinjiang:

“This news from Secretaries Pompeo and Ross today is welcome and sorely needed,” Moore said. “China's reign of terror on religious minorities must be met with a vigorous response from the United States. These new restrictions on the Chinese government officials responsible for the persecution of religious minorities are just and wise. I pray that we will continue to act until the day that the Chinese Communist Party no longer terrorizes religious people from believing and living out their deepest held convictions.”

This effort from the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce is directed at the travel and business activity of those involved in the totalitarian repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in China.

The ERLC has called for the U.S. government to prioritize the fundamental right of religious freedom in all aspects of its foreign policy dealings with China. At the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Southern Baptists passed a resolution condemning the Communist Party of China for their “extreme religious persecution and flagrant human rights violations.”

Last month, Russell Moore published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the importance of countering China morally, highlighting the abysmal record of the Communist Party of China on fundamental human rights. Below are a few excerpts.

“Americans have differing views about how to balance a firm response to these threats with a sustained interstate relationship, but we cannot ignore the Chinese Communist Party’s shredding of human rights and religious freedom.

“In contrast with China, the United States was founded on the principle that rights are rooted in nature and nature’s God—not in government fiat. The U.S. should counter China with a resolute commitment to advance not only economic fairness, but also human rights and freedom of conscience.

“We will continue to debate how best to counter China economically and militarily. Yet surely Americans, the heirs of Jefferson, Madison, Truman and Reagan, can agree that we must begin the long and good work of confronting China morally. The persecuted people there do not bear the image of the Chinese Communist Party membership card, nor do they bear the image of a bar code for international commerce. They bear the image of a Creator above the reach of any state, no matter that it pretends to be a god.

“Render unto China that which is China’s, but its people’s souls aren’t part of that deal.”

Moore’s full op-ed can be accessed at this link

By / Aug 5

“Christian women are the most persecuted group in the world.” 

The first time I heard that statistic, I was sitting safely at church in Washington, D.C. David Curry, the president of Open Doors USA, came to speak about the plight of persecuted believers around the world. As he shared their stories, my heart was deeply grieved as I learned about how women and girls are doubly persecuted for their faith and their gender.

The founder of Open Doors USA, “Brother Andrew” earned the nickname “God’s Smuggler,” for his work smuggling Bibles into countries where it was illegal to own a Bible. One of the most notable stories was early in his ministry, where he successfully smuggled Bibles across the border into communist Romania. This small Eastern European country was my birthplace. I was born a little over a year after communism fell, but my time in Romania was brief, as I was adopted into an American family. I didn’t grow up under religious persecution, but I have friends in Romania who have shared vivid stories of their time under communism and the persecution the country faced for decades.

Religious persecution isn’t a thing of the past, ceasing when communism ended. Christians are heavily persecuted in many areas of the world. One in nine Christians will experience high levels of persecution, and gender-specific discrimination and persecution is rampant throughout the world.

The United Nations estimates that approximately 200 million girls are missing from the world due to sex-selective abortions, abandonment, or intentional murder. In addition to the millions of females that are missing, women and girls are routinely abused and mistreated, physically and sexually.

The definition of “gender discrimination” is simple, but the issue is complex.


An area of the world that’s of particular concern is the country of India. Approximately 239,000 girls under the age of five die in India each year due to neglect, simply because they are girls. Over the past decade, 2.4 million girls have lost their chance at life, either being abandoned, or murdered, because their families didn’t want another female. If a girl does manage to survive, Indian girls routinely receive less education, have poorer nutrition, and receive less medical attention than boys. The plight of Indian women is heartbreaking; one-third of women are illiterate, there are no laws preventing spousal rape, young women become child brides, and sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are common practices.

An Indian woman, interviewed for a documentary titled “It’s a Girl,” tells how she murdered eight of her children, because they were born female. After she gave birth, she tells about how she’d strangle her daughters after they were born.

Many families feel like they have no choice but to kill their daughters. In their minds, they justify quickly killing the child, instead of allowing her to grow up in extreme poverty, or having to come up with the money for a dowry.

Another horrible practice in India is dowry deaths. A “dowry death” is the murder or suicide of a married woman becaue of a dispute over her. Last year, an estimated 87,000 women were killed in dowry deaths around the world, and 50,000 of those women were killed by their spouse or family members. Women commit suicide, or are murdered by their husbands or in-laws for not meeting dowry demands. In India, it’s also more difficult for “ugly and handicapped girls” to get married, because the groom’s family would demand larger dowries. This practice is technically illegal in India, but is rarely prosecuted. Dowry deaths make the home one of the most dangerous places for women to be in the world.


The country with the most notable population of girls missing is China. The two most populous nations on earth, India and China, eliminate more girls each year than the number of girls that are born in the United States. Prospective parents prefer sons above daughters, and Chinese girls are routinely aborted, abandoned, or end up in orphanages. In 1979, the Chinese government instituted the “One Child Policy.” Under that restrictive policy, families that had more than one child were at risk of having their wages reduced, or losing social services.

In parts of the world, particularly in China and India, some of the deadliest words are “It’s a girl.” Sex-selective abortion affects girls disproportionately, and in many places, it’s legal to abort a child if they happen to be the unfavorable gender: female. The term “gendercide” describes this practice. In China, the men outnumber the women by 33 million, and in India, a girl is aborted every minute.

Other Forms of Gender Persecution

Another form of gender persecution is female genital mutilation, which is a removal of some or all of the female genitalia for nonmedical reasons. The humiliating procedure is most often performed on girls between birth and 15 years old. It’s estimated that more than 200 million girls and women have been subject to this cruel process. The traumatic event, often including being physically restrained while the procedure takes place, will emotionally affect women for the rest of their lives.

An issue that’s received attention over the past few years is the issue of human trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization, there are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, and 75 percent are women and girls.

The issues highlighted so far are just a few of dozens of examples where women and girls are discriminated against, and persecuted because of their gender.

Christian women and persecution

Let’s zoom in a little further, and talk about the plight that Christian women face around the world. Women are already discriminated against because they are women, but when they are found to be Christians, the suffering and persecution against them increases. Christian women are doubly persecuted. 

Christian persecution is growing globally. In 2019, an estimated 245 million Christians will experience high levels of persecution because of their faith. This is a 14 percent increase from last year. One of the trends from the Open Doors USA annual “World Watch List” report is that women are an increasing target. It’s important that we recognize how vulnerable our sisters are around the world, especially in the parts of the world where women already face such strong gender discrimination. In Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram captured a 15-year-old woman, killed her father, and then repeatedly raped her because she refused to renounce her faith. Sadly, her story is common in countries with high levels of persecution. 

The Bible on gender discrimination

As Christians, we uphold the truth that all people are created in the image of God—both male and female. Scripture is clear that men and women should be treated with the same levels of dignity and respect. Nowhere in the Bible do we see that one sex is superior to the other. Instead, we see our Savior upholding the dignity of women during his ministry on earth.

Women in ancient culture were vulnerable and mistreated. In a patriarchal society, the prayers of Jewish men included a prayer of thanksgiving, “Praised be God that he has not created me a woman.” Some Jewish writers taught that women should never leave the home, except to go to the synagogue.

Jesus’ treatment of women was countercultural. In one of the most remarkable stories in the Gospels, we see Jesus tenderly interact with the woman at the well. Not only was he speaking with a woman in public, she was also a Samaritan. Cultural protocol dictated that Samaritans and Jews didn’t interact, much less a Jewish man interacting with a Samaritan woman. Scripture doesn’t name the woman, but it doesn’t have to, because Jesus did something more important. The Samaritan woman came to the well in the middle of the day, when she thought no one would notice her drawing water. She was an outcast of society, shamed for her promiscuous behavior, yet in her conversation with Jesus, he treats her with kindness and interacts with her honestly. He doesn’t shy away from addressing her sin, but offers her living water.

What can we do?

So, how can we follow Jesus’ lead? 

Pray. Our first and most important action should be to pray for our persecuted sisters across the world. Our prayers deeply matter, and we can be a part of actively advocating for our sisters around the world through our prayers. 

  • Pray that persecution against women and girls would cease. 
  • Pray that the Lord would change the hearts of those doing the persecuting,
  • Pray for healing for girls and women who have experienced discrimination.
  • Pray that cultures would begin to value women.

Christians should help reimagine a world where it would be unthinkable that any woman is persecuted because of her sex. We should help raise awareness on this issue and speak on behalf of our sisters around the world. 

A practical step is to prayerfully consider whether the Lord is leading your family to adopt. There are thousands of girls that are eligible for adoption in countries such as India and China. If your family isn’t called to adopt, perhaps you can help financially support another family who is called to adopt. 

The statistics in this article are hard to comprehend, and heartbreaking. But may they propel us to our knees and into action for our vulnerable sisters around the world. 

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