Persecuted for the faith series, Part 3: Philos Project on how to pray for the Middle East and tangible ways to help
Every first week of November, the Church comes together for an International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. For many American Christians the reality of the global church is a distant one. Aside from breaking news or an occasional missions Sunday, we may know very little about the testimonies of Christians in restricted countries and so we have no idea how to pray alongside them.
Want more on how to pray for the persecuted Church? Get our special free ebooklet on the topic here.
Today, we talk with Communications Director for The Philos Project, Vivian Hughbanks specifically about what Christians in the Middle East are facing and how the global Church can pray and provide tangible relief. Next week, we have a VERY special Q & A to wrap up our series. Check back!
For more information the topic, read the first two installments of this series:
Philos Project works specifically in the Middle East. Give us an update on what Christians are facing now in the region.
Right now, ancient Christian communities who have flourished for centuries in the cradle of our faith are being stamped out by violent islamism. Most Western Christians are either unaware or ambivalent to this.
Christian cities in the Nineveh region of Iraq were ravaged under Islamic state rule. Since coalition forces have liberated the Nineveh plains, home to ancient Christian cities such as Bakhdida, Bartella, Tel Kepe, and Batnaya, Christians who fled as refugees are beginning to return. Rebuilding Christian existence there is a gargantuan task. Churches were used as bomb factories and firing ranges. Crosses and icons were used for target practice. Cathedrals were burned out. Homes were destroyed and looted. Parts of some towns were reduced to rubble. As the momentum for an independent Kurdistan is growing, some Kurds are threatening and trampling Christian leadership to seize control.
In Lebanon and Jordan, Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria who were forced to leave their homes to flee the Islamic State have not been granted refugee status by the United Nations. This has prevented them from working, attending school, or going to the hospital. Assistance of UN refugee camps is not available to them. They have no income, no medical assistance, and refugee children’s education has been put on hold. They rely on charity of the local church community, and the support of international charities.
As Islamic State militants’ foothold is gaining strength in Sinai, Egypt the organization is emboldened to carry out attacks. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks this year. On Palm Sunday, twin bomb attacks in Alexandria and Tanta killed more than 100. In May, terrorists slaughtered 28 Copts while on their way to a monastery to pray. ISIS now boasts that Copts are its “favorite prey.” Perpetrators of injustice against Christians are largely not held accountable by Sisi’s government, and security in churches is not a priority.
The church in Iran is growing in secret, but laws against practice of Christianity remain strictly enforced. Christianity is considered a Western influence and a threat to the Islamic identity of Iran. Arrests and violence are commonplace. Christian converts in Saudi Arabia must live our their faith in deepest secrecy to avoid fierce persecution from their families, society, and the Saudi government.
If you’re a Christian in the Middle East, the safest place to be is Israel. Christians in the Holy Land are thriving. In the north, Aramean Christians are rediscovering their ancient heritage, and even reviving the spoken language of Syriac Aramaic: the language of Jesus.
How do we offer tangible support specifically for those Christians in the Middle East undergoing persecution?
As Christians, we have the responsibility to do good to all people, but especially to those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Years from now, we must not be the generation that allowed Christianity die in the land of its birth.
The Philos Project is actively engaged in supporting Christian communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian territories to help preserve Christian existence in the region. Donations made to the Philos Project will directly assist with projects such as providing Christian refugees in Lebanon with medical supplies or providing food or building supplies for Christians rebuilding their homes in Iraq. Those interested may designate their donations to specific causes at: philosproject.org/donate.
Other than financial support, it is critical that western Christians become aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. It’s time to end the Western church’s ambivalence toward Christian persecution. Here are a few tangible ways to raise awareness:
—Share articles about the church in the Middle East on social media
—Organize a screening of the Clarion Project film Faithkeepers at your church or school
—Ask a Philos speaker to come to your church or school
—Start a book club to read and discuss Mindy Belz’ book They Say We Are Infidels or Phillip Jenkins’ The Lost History of Christianity
—Host a prayer vigil for the persecuted church of the Middle East
The Philos Project is happy to assist in these endeavors. Feel free to contact us via email@example.com. Awareness is the first step toward positive engagement.
Why should American Christians advocate politically for those undergoing persecution? How can we do so?
The United States is a powerful force with the potential to have positive influence on this tumultuous region through security support and foreign aid. Any political action by the U.S. in the region should be framed with a nuanced understanding of the complexities of its politics, ethnicities, and religions. Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions to end the persecution.
What resources are available for those who want to deepen their involvement?
A strong knowledge base is key to beginning engagement on these issues. The Clarion Project film Faithkeepers is an excellent introductory resource on Christian persecution under the Islamic State. The Philos Project offers useful resources and blog articles, as does In Defense of Christians, the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, Coptic Solidarity, and Open Doors USA. Prayer guides for the persecuted church are available at www.risevigil.org.
With the International Day of prayer for the persecuted church, how do we pray for those undergoing persecution?
As we’re commanded in Hebrews 13:3, we must remember those who are mistreated as if we were suffering with them. Pray for peace in the regions of turmoil. Pray that humanitarian aid would be organized and sustained in an effective manner. Pray that security and military forces responsible for maintaining safety of Christian communities are cooperative and effective in doing their jobs. Pray God’s provision and encouragement for Christians rebuilding or living in refugee situations. Pray that the Western church would be awakened to the plight of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and come to their aid.
Find the final installment of this series below: