One of the world's leading Christian persecution watchdog groups has put together a petition to presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, decrying a "baffling silence" on the problem of persecution, and urging them to devise a plan of action for how to help.
Kristin Wright, director of advocacy at Open Doors USA, told The Christian Post in a phone interview that there has been a "baffling" silence by both Trump and Clinton, given that most Americans believe that the next American president should have a plan of action for addressing the persecution of Christians.
Two separate petitions, one addressed to Trump and one to Clinton, point to a recent Harris/Neilsen poll that shows three out of four Americans believe this is an important issue for the next president to address.
There has been a rising tide of Christian persecution around the world — Open Doors statistics say that more than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2015 alone.
"So to me the fact that we are not hearing very much at all on this issue is mystifying," Wright told CP.
"That is one of the reasons we are really encouraging people to sign this petition at OpenDoorsUSA.org, and urge the candidates to come forward with a plan of action and speak on this issue," she added.
Some of the more troubling numbers show that as many as 11,500 Christians lost their lives in Nigeria between 2006 and 2014; an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are held in modern-day concentration camps in North Korea; and then there is the ongoing genocide of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria at the hands of the Islamic State terror group.
Wright said that a number of these atrocities are "very visible in the public eye around the world today," and cannot be ignored.
The Open Doors advocacy director said that while she can't comment on whether Trump or Clinton have so far shown a bigger promise that they will help persecuted people, the most important thing is to start from a place of awareness.
"That's the reason we've launched this campaign. The tragedy is that we have two presidential candidates who are out there on the campaign trail, and we're hearing about so many other issues, we're hearing about domestic religious freedom issues; we're hearing about a wide variety of topics, and yet the persecution of Christians and other people off faith around the world has not been mentioned very much," she said.
Beside awareness, the petitions to Trump and Clinton call for a "clear, strategic plan of action to address religious persecution," and call on the candidates to explain to the American people precisely how they will act.
"Now more than ever, the next president of the United States needs to have an awareness of the persecution of Christians, and they also need to have a plan of action they are able to articulate. At Open Doors we want that to happen before these candidates reach office," Wright said.
As for what this plan of action could potentially consist of, Wright said there are many different aspects that can be addressed, from providing a place of refuge to people fleeing war and terror, to increasing humanitarian assistance.
"Open Doors really focuses on what is happening on the ground; we are at work in over 60 countries around the world. What we see in countries like Iraq, for instance, is that there is always a greater need for humanitarian assistance, but sometimes this assistance isn't going to vulnerable Christians and other religious minorities. We want to make sure that humanitarian assistance is going to people who need it the most," she explained.
Speaking about the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria, Wright pointed to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, aimed at raising awareness for the over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok in April 2014.
She noted that while first lady Michelle Obama was supportive of the campaign, President Obama did not visit Nigeria, despite calls to do so from Open Doors.
"That is one step a president can take to really solidify our call for increased protection of Christians and other religious minorities," she added, noting that Obama could urge for the protection of girls and women who are victims of kidnapping in such a visit, or call for the preservation of the Christian community.
Open Door's World Watch List highlights the many different areas around the world where Christians face persecution for their faith, and Wright said that there are some specific regions where the next president can have a particular impact.
She said that the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, will be very important, and the next president should help in working toward a future "where Christians can begin a path to safety, and a path to a safe place."
Wright noted that international religious freedom issues in countries like India must also be addressed, sharing hopes that things can still be turned around for the better for people living there.
"It starts with awareness. If we have a president here in the U.S. who is deeply concerned about the plight of persecuted Christians and those of other faith groups, then I think we are going to be starting from the right place in terms of hearing his or her thoughts on persecution, and what can be done," she added.
People interested in signing the petitions, which were launched last week, can find them on OpenDoorsUSA.org.