Religious, political leaders urge Western Church to remember 'forgotten' persecuted Christians

Egyptian Muslims and Christians celebrate Coptic Christmas eve mass, at Tahrir Square in Cairo, January 6, 2013.
Egyptian Muslims and Christians celebrate Coptic Christmas eve mass, at Tahrir Square in Cairo, January 6, 2013. | (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Religious and political leaders urged the Church in the West to speak up for persecuted Christians and warned that if the U.S. doesn’t lead the fight for religious freedom, the world will “regress to our natural fallen state."

“There is more persecution worldwide than at any other time in modern history. And there's never been a greater need for action,” former Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf said Wednesday night during the In Defense of Christians 2020 digital summit.

He cited statistics from the Pew Research Center revealing that 80% of the world’s population lives in a religiously repressive environment. Out of all the global religions, Christians are the most persecuted group, he said. 

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Wolf, a longtime advocate for international religious freedom who authored the legislation that created the international religious freedom office at the State Department, specifically mentioned the persecution of Christians,Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong in China. He also decried the “genocide” occurring in Nigeria.

“Boko Haram has killed more people, more Christians in Nigeria, than all the people that ISIS killed in Iraq and Syria combined,” he said. 

But according to Wolf, the “cries of the persecuted are met with the sound of silence" from many in the faith community in the West.

“Many Christians in these communities really feel abandoned. And when you visit them, sometimes they almost feel doomed,” he explained.

He cited William Wilberforce, who stated: “You may choose to look the other way. But you can never say again that you do not know.”

“With all the information out there today, you really can't say that we do not know,” Wolf contended. “You should be speaking out for those who are being persecuted and then, regardless of the cost, you're to be acting, doing something about it because we are facing a very, very critical time. The West needs to step up — particularly the Church in the West needs to step up.”

The 81-year-old was among many who participated in the online global summit hosted by the prominent Washington-based human rights advocacy organization In Defense of Christians, which engages in grassroots political advocacy campaigns to lobby for the protection of persecuted ancient Christian communities in the Middle East.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, one of several religious leaders to address the summit, said that when he meets with persecuted Christians in foreign countries, “they’ll constantly say to me, ‘We feel forgotten. We don't hear anybody speaking up for us. We feel like we're orphans.’”

“I say to them, ‘You got it,’” Dolan told the audience. “And I’m asking all of you not to make me a liar. We can’t forget those Christians suffering throughout the world. We can’t ignore them.”

As part of the event, IDC named Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, the IDC “Champion of 2020” for advocating for the protection and preservation of Christians and Christianity in the Middle East.

“Here in the U.S. we enjoy freedom,” Crenshaw said while accepting the award. “Freedom to largely do what we please, say what we will, where we want to, with whom we want to do it. But we're unique both today and in the longer history of the world. These are freedoms not everyone enjoys, and in far too many places, those freedoms don't even exist at all. Freedom to gather, the freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, is not the norm.”

Crenshaw stressed that the “fight for freedom here and abroad is not one that will ever be totally won."

"It’s a constant battle that requires our eternal vigilance and willingness to be the shining city on the hill that leads by example and is willing to stand up and fight for the freedoms founded on our Judeo-Christian faith that we hold so dearly," the Republican said. 

“Evils like the Islamic State can only exist when America refuses to lead,” he added. “We say 'The price is too high. The burden is just too much.'”

If the U.S. refuses to lead or “fight for the truth that man is born free with inalienable, God-given rights,” the world will “regress to our natural fallen state where freedom is not the norm, but a brief memory of the distant past,” Crenshaw asserted. 

“Freedom matters,” the representative said. “Your freedom matters, freedom of Christians across the globe, but especially in the Middle East, the rights of free conscience to pray freely and the ability to worship without fear, matters.”

Opening the digital event, IDC President Toufic Baaklini praised the Trump administration for contributing to “historic milestones for religious freedom,” mentioning Trump's Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom and the recognition of the Armenian genocide in Congress

“We want to thank President Trump for what he's done,” Baaklini said. “No other president in U.S. history has done for the Christians all over the world [what he’s done].”

Wednesday’s event was co-chaired by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. EWTN News anchor Tracy Sabol served as the master of ceremonies.

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