Forty American Anglican (U.S.) bishops, as well as the Most Rev. Robert Duncan, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, (ACNA) have signed on to a Pledge of Solidarity & Call to Action on behalf of Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria.
The pledge was released at a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, and hosted by U.S. Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), strong advocates for the persecuted and the co-chairs of the bipartisan Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, collaborating with Nina Shea, the director and senior scholar at the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom. Wolf, a firm believer in the power of prayer, observes “there are more churches than there are chambers of commerce in America.”
Wolf also understands the potential for action, if church leaders and church members are inspired, motivated, and impassioned. Sadly, this has not usually been the case. Many believers in these countries (as well as many others) feel forgotten and abandoned by their fellow Christians. The pledge recounts pages of facts about the increasingly alarming conditions for Christians and other small religious communities in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. The Pledge of Solidarity concludes, “we see ‘the tears of the oppressed’ and cannot ignore them.
Along with Wolf and Eshoo, a number of prominent Christian leaders from across denominational lines came together at the press conference in a great show of unity in their commitment to the persecuted in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Similarly, the list of 188 signers for the pledge hailed from such varied U.S. faith and ethnic groups as Evangelical, Syriac, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Methodist, Armenian Apostolic, Byzantine Catholic, Southern Baptist, Maronite, Orthodox, Coptic, Chaldean, Assyrian, and Episcopal.
In the words of Shea, it was “a broad array of American Christians, with a degree of unity rarely seen since the Council of Nicaea in 325.” She adds that, “their action results from deepening concern about the ‘wave of persecution’ in the region of Christianity’s roots.” And the pledge itself reveals, “No Christian tradition is spared. . .Pope Francis has called this the ‘ecumenism of blood,’ meaning that the extremists do not discriminate among the Christians they are attacking.” The pledge further speaks of “other defenseless religious groups” — Mandeans, Yizidis, Baha’is, Ahmadis, and others, including the increasingly tiny Jewish community.
A Call to Action follows the Pledge of Solidarity. In this section the signers “respectfully call for” three key actions upon the part of the United States government:
1. The appointment of a Special Envoy on Middle East Religious Minorities. This action has been stymied in the Senate and by the Obama Administration, but is needed urgently to defend the rights and safety of the minority religious communities in a way that the usual diplomatic efforts have not done.
2. Review of Foreign Aid to ensure that American assistance programs uphold policies and principles that relate to religious freedom and pluralism.
3. Refugee & Reconstruction Assistance to help Christian communities and other defenseless religious groups to remain safely within their homeland or region. The U.S. government must ensure that religious minorities are not discriminated against by local authorities in the distribution of aid donated by the U.S. government.
The entire pledge and the list of all 188 pledge signers is available here. The Anglican bishops represented the largest single group to declare their solidarity with the persecuted in these three beleaguered nations. Several other American Anglican Christian leaders also signed.
Because several of us at the IRD are members of the Anglican Church in North America, and proud of the stand taken by our bishops, I am listing them all here. American Anglicans reading this blog post may wish to see if their own bishop is on the list, and if so, express their thanks to him for committing to this important issue:
The Most Rev. Robert Duncan, Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America, and the Rt. Reverends Keith L. Ackerman, Kevin Bond Allen, Roger C. Ames, David Craig Anderson, Sr., William G. Atwood, III, Thad Barnum, Foley Beach, David Bena, Steven Breedlove, David C. Bryan, Julian Dobbs, Alphonza Gadsden, Sr., R. Charles Gillin, Terrell Glenn, John A. M. Guernsey, David L. Hicks, Jack L. Iker, William H. Ilgenfritz, Derek Jones, Quigg Lawrence, Neil G. Lebhar, Richard Lipka, Clark W. P. Lowenfield, Frank Lyons, Peter Manto, Eric Vawter Menees, John E. Miller, III, Dan Morse, Winfield Mott, William L. Murdoch, Felix Orji, Leonard W. Riches, Ken Ross, Stewart E. Ruch, II, Sam Seamans, Ray R. Sutton, William A. Thompson, William C. Wantland, Steve Wood, and J. Mark Zimmerman.
If you are interested in letting Congressman Frank Wolf and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo know that you share this concern and want to pledge solidarity to the persecuted believers around the world, please contact me at [email protected] We will compile a list to share with them. The conclusion of the pledge reads “new action is desperately needed by our churches, our government, and our civil society institutions here in the United States, and by all people of good will.” Please join the bishops and other church leaders in being a part of that new action.