by Jeff Jeremiah
“Global Movement” is one of the four strategic initiatives in the EPC as we move from “transfer to transformation” growth. It includes the continued outstanding ministry of our World Outreach department led by Phil Linton. It also includes exploring potential partnerships with denominations and groups in the global church in which the synergy from the partnership could produce Kingdom growth we couldn’t imagine doing on our own. Moderator Mike Moses led a group of EPC leaders to Mexico City earlier this month to meet with leadership of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. A report of that trip will be released soon.
A third aspect of Global Movement is the reality that brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world are suffering persecution and martyrdom for their faith. Who can forget the video of the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in February 2015? Did you know that only 20 of those young men were Christians when they were brought to beach for their execution? The twenty-first was a Muslim. When he observed the testimony and faith of his friends, he confessed Jesus as his Savior and Lord and subsequently was martyred for his faith.
In the last several months, the suffering of Christians and other religious minorities in ISIS-held territory in Syria and Iraq has made headlines. The Assyrian Christian community there, once 1.3 million strong, now is estimated at no more than 300,000.
Religious rights advocate Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom for the Hudson Institute, has written, “The last Christians to pray in the language spoken by Jesus are being deliberately targeted for extinction. Christians have been executed by the thousands. Many of their clergy have been assassinated and their churches and ancient monasteries demolished or desecrated.”
What can we do? As we continue to remember our suffering brothers and sisters to the Lord, we also can advocate for them by encouraging our government to acknowledge that this persecution of Christians is genocide. The US State Department is required by law to make a report with an evaluation to Congress of “the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East, and determine whether such attacks constitute genocide.” The deadline for this report to the Congress is March 17.
Will you set aside time in your worship services on Saturday and Sunday, March 12-13, to pray for Christians suffering for their faith in ISIS-held territory, and also pray that the State Department will report to Congress that the horrors they endure is genocide?
Additionally, you can email Secretary of State John Kerry by clicking the “Contact Us Request Form” on the U.S. Secretary of State website at http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi. Without a genocide declaration by the world’s leading nations, the international community will continue to do little as Christians and other religious minorities in this region suffer.
Genocide is defined in international law in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- 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;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
In November, Cindy and I enjoyed an informative and challenging trip to Israel. One of the topics addressed on the trip was religious persecution in the region. While there, we viewed the powerful and convicting “Sing a Little Louder” video. I urge you to invest less than 12 minutes at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofcs9Y7qL4s. The video highlights the response of Christians of another era when confronted with the persecution and destruction of a religious minority. Your response may be to wonder what you would have done then, but let’s be certain about our response for our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who face suffering simply for their faith today.