Prominent Christian leaders from across ecumenical lines joined together in Washington, D.C., today to pledge to do more to help religious communities who are being persecuted in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, was among the speakers at a press conference announcing the release of a “Pledge of Solidarity & Call to Action” that has been signed by more than 175 religious leaders from across the country.
The pledge, in part, says: “Now facing an existential threat to their presence in the lands where Christianity has its roots, the Churches in the Middle East fear they have been largely ignored by their coreligionists in the West… American religious leaders need to pray and speak with greater urgency about this human rights crisis.”
Republican Representative Frank Wolf and Democratic Representative Anna G. Eshoo, co-chairs of the bipartisan Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, hosted the press conference.
Others who spoke included George J. Marlin, chairman of the Board, Aid to the Church in Need-USA, His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad (Statement read by Joseph Kassab, founder and president, Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute), and Nina Shea, director and senior scholar, Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom.
“I regularly meet with beleaguered Christians from this part of the world,” Wolf said at the press conference. “Their stories are eerily similar: believers kidnapped for ransom; churches – some full of worshippers – attacked; clergy targeted for killing. In the face of this violence, Christians are leaving in droves.
“The resounding theme that emerges is quite simply a plea for solidarity, and an appeal for help,” Wolf continued. “Where is the West they wonder?”
The legislator noted the group of signatories represents the diversity of American Christianity, with individuals hailing not only from the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions but also a variety of sectors, including clergy, parachurch heads, thought leaders and university and seminary presidents.
Among the foreign policy recommendations contained in the pledge is the appointment of a high-level Special Envoy on Middle East Religious Minorities. Wolf and Eshoo sponsored legislation to this effect that overwhelmingly passed the House last year and is presently languishing in the Senate.
“The faith leaders assembled, and those who have signed the pledge, have made clear that they are not waiting for Washington to take action,” Wolf said. “They recognize that unless the American church begins to champion this cause the foreign policy establishment will hardly lead the way. They are committing to be their ‘brother’s keeper,’ whether in Nineveh, Cairo or Homs. And for that, I thank them.”