Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Open Doors USA Urges Senate to Reauthorize Religious Freedom Commission
Open Doors USA recently joined over 70 organizations and individuals in signing a multi-faith Non-Governmental Organizations’ (NGOs) letter to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), sponsored by the International Religious Freedom Roundtable.
The letter urges members of the committee to pass H.R. 4653, a bill to reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The commission’s current authorization will expire on Sept. 30. Bill H.R. 4653, sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) was passed in the House with broad bi-partisan support, was received in the Senate on July 9 and referred to the SFRC.
Open Doors Advocacy has also been reaching out to individual offices of Senate Foreign Relations Committee members, urging their support in moving this critical bill to a vote before the deadline.
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan commission which monitors the state of religious freedom worldwide and makes independent policy recommendations about the worst violators to the President, Secretary of State and Congress. The only such government commission of its kind in the world, it publishes valuable annual reports and provides accountability to the State Department to ensure it is accurately reporting on religious freedom violations and using all the tools at the disposal of the United States government to promote religious freedom.
Kristin Wright, Open Doors USA Director of Advocacy, states: “USCIRF reauthorization is crucial to the cause of international religious freedom, which is now at risk more than ever before. I encourage everyone to contact their U.S. senators to express their support for reauthorization of the USCIRF before the current authorization expires at the end of this month.”
Syria & Lebanon: Extinction of Christianity in Middle East at Stake
Leaders of evangelical and Protestant churches in Syria and Lebanon have urged Christian churches worldwide to act before Christianity in the Middle East is extinct.
In an “urgent appeal,” the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon said it is “filled with awe and fear.” Because of that, the organization “announces a state of emergency in order to preserve what remains of the Christian and moderate non-Christian presence in the Middle East, and to prevent its complete demise.”
The appeal notes that “the issue of Christian presence in the Middle East has gone beyond the stage of calling for equal rights and protection from persecution. It has become a cry of warning before further events cause the annihilation of Christian presence in the Middle East.”
In the appeal, the council speaks about the current situation in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Regarding the conflict in Iraq, it speaks up against the “forced displacement and murderous killings of individuals and groups; killings that verge on being a bona fide genocide.”
In view of all that is happening in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, the council speaks of an “existential threat” for Middle Eastern minorities, as well as moderate Muslim majorities.”
The council calls on all Christians worldwide to press their governments and decision-makers to raise awareness of the imminent dangers of the situation, to stop depletion, forced and ordered displacement and to end the erosion of the “long-standing and historic fabric of peaceful communal living.”
An Open Doors Middle East spokesman says: “We fully agree with the concern of the council. Indeed, the mere existence of Christianity in (a part of) the Middle East is at stake. Especially because of the rise of the Islamic State (IS), Christians fear for their future and many search for opportunities to leave the region. As the ideology of the Islamic State is wider than only Iraq and Syria, the violence could easily spread to Lebanon and Jordan and even other countries, leading to another exodus of Christians.”
Syria is ranked No. 3 and Iraq No. 4 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
To support refugees in Iraq, Syria and other places in the Middle East, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Nigeria: Thursday Marks 150 Days in Captivity for Chibok Girls
Thursday, Sept. 11, marks 150 days since the attack on the Chibok Government Secondary School which resulted in the abductions of around 275 girls by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Although 47 of the girls were able to escape either during their abduction or shortly after their arrival at the camp where they were being held, no others have been able to find their way home.
In May, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau stated in two videos received by the French Press Agency that “these girls you’re talking about, some of them were Christian but they converted to Islam. They now accept that Allah is the only God and that Jesus is one of his messengers. This is my message to the world. The girls who did not convert to Islam will not be released as long as you detain our people. But the Muslim girls are our sisters.”
He also said: “I repeat I am going to sell these girls. I’m not going to release them as long as you detain our people and brutalize our own women. You’re making too much noise about these schoolgirls.”
Boko Haram wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in towns and villages it has seized in northeastern Nigeria.
The Chibok girls’ ordeal continues with their distressed family members awaiting news about their daughters and sisters. A few months ago Open Doors field workers met with family members to pray with them and deliver letters of prayer and encouragement from Christians around the world.
Nigeria is ranked No. 14 on the World Watch List.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.