SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) — Christians in Iraq are the targets of a “horrific injustice” and immediate action is required to help them, said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in an Aug. 25 statement.
Floyd, who is pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, called on political leaders in the United States “to stand strong for international religious freedom” and urged followers of Jesus to take action themselves, “both prayerfully and compassionately.”
In a statement released to Baptist Press and published at www.ronniefloyd.com, Floyd said:
“The eyes of the world are watching the crisis in Iraq. We know that 50,000 Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds are still trapped on a mountaintop, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of others are being forced from their homes across Iraq by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), many of which are being killed by these barbaric extremists. Sadly, we now also know that … (American journalist James Foley) has been beheaded by these ruthless terrorists.
“While the leaders of our nation strategize about this situation politically and militarily, I call upon them to stand strong for international religious freedom,” Floyd added. “Christians in Iraq are the targets of religious cleansing, suffering abuse, injustice, violence, and death… This is a time for action, especially by Christ-followers, both prayerfully and compassionately.”
The Middle East is entering a new phase of a larger crisis that has been intensifying over the past two years, Floyd said.
“The current crisis in Iraq is driving Christians and other non-Muslim minorities — as well as Muslims who won’t submit to Islamist rule — from their homes. About 1.5 million Iraqis have been forcibly displaced,” Floyd said. “This Iraq crisis compounds the Syrian refugee situation, in which more than 9 million people have been driven from their homes. Jihadists have ruthlessly martyred Christians who did not flee.”
Floyd urged Christians not to “become paralyzed by the sight of this horrific injustice” and quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor martyred by the Nazis during World War II: “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Refugee lives are on the line right now and will face even greater danger in the weeks ahead, Floyd said. Many families were forced to leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Right now they are suffering under extreme summer temperatures. In a few months, they will be ill-prepared for bitter winter weather.
“As Southern Baptist people, leaders, and churches, we must rise up and send resources immediately to respond in this unprecedented moment in history, demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus Christ among the peoples of the world,” Floyd said. “Millions are in desperate need. The international community is not rising to save these lives, and in any case, no one but Christians can speak the love and hope of Christ into these souls.”
Floyd urged Southern Baptists to act immediately in two ways: “We must give and give now!” and “We must pray and pray now!” He pointed people to the website of Baptist Global Response, which has been working with Baptist churches in the Middle East, as well as other partners, to provide refugees with the basic needs of life: water, shelter, food and sanitation.
“Last week, I was on a global call with leaders of our Southern Baptist relief effort, who were there to meet refugees and ministry partners. As they briefed me on the severity of this crisis, I knew it was incumbent upon me to ask Southern Baptists to respond immediately to this humanitarian need,” Floyd said in the statement. “Rise up and join me, as well as our church in responding compassionately, financially, and prayerfully.”
For the full text of Floyd’s call to prayer and action, click here.
Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, www.gobgr.org.
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