Fresh off the successful evacuation of 149 Iraqi Christian refugees to Slovakia last week, faith leader Johnnie Moore addressed Saddleback Church Sunday with a message that put the enormity of the Middle East refugee crisis into perspective for American churches, and explained the extent to which terrorists have destroyed the cradle of Christianity.
"The world we're living in is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII," Moore told the congregation of Saddleback Church. "Sixty million refugees are displaced people in our world right now — 12 million alone affected by the Syrian crisis."
Moore explained that, unlike refugees of other countries, Syrian refugees had a lot in common with Americans. "Syria was not unlike our own country. It was a middle class country. … These people were like us, they weren't poor people. … They were middle class people, they were people like you and I. … Their kids were in college, they had cars ... they had two-story houses, they had regular, every day normal lives like we have."
The Evangelical said that the faces of the refugee crisis often get reduced to numbers, issues and policies.
"We often forget the people, and I'm here to remind us today that as followers of Jesus Christ, as members of the Christian church, that Jesus is concerned about the people."
Moore explained that Jesus' ministry has never been more relevant than it is today.
"The church in the Middle East looks like the first century church," he said. "It's a church where people are being beheaded and crucified, where churches are being destroyed, where people are losing their lives, where people are being imprisoned for their faith alone, where people are being threatened with forcible conversion or death. … The Christian community has suffered as they have rarely suffered in all of Christian history."
The theologian reminded congregants that Iraq is the "cradle of Christianity" and that the city of Mosul, the second largest in Iraq, was once called Nineveh where God had called Jonah to preach.
"That sermon that Jonah preached in Nineveh laid the seeds of a church that has thrived for centuries, thousands of years in fact, since the very time of Jesus — but it didn't survive 2014. The only Christians left in Mosul, or the whole Nineveh Plain — that whole area of Iraq — are those held as slaves."
Moore went on to say that at one church which had once held daily worship services over the course of 1,600 years — services there have now ceased.
"The church doesn't even exist anymore. It's rubble," he said.
"The attacks on the Christians were so thorough by these terrorists that they carved the crosses out of the tombstones in the Christian cemeteries. In one night 120,000 Christians were put to flight as the terrorists moved in their cities. ... This is the world we're living in."