NEW YORK, NY— In the wake of the U.S. withdraw from Iraq, Christian and Jewish leaders are joining together this Wednesday, December 21 to urge the international community to pressure the Iraqi government to protect its Christian minority, which increasingly faces threats from Muslim sectarian violence in the country.
Representatives from over 30 religious groups will gather in front of the Iraqi mission, 14 East 79th St, tomorrow, Dec. 21 at 12 pm, calling for government assurances to do more for the Christians in Iraq this holiday season, and asking houses of worship around the world to include a prayer for the Iraqi Christians during their holiday services.
“One of the greatest tragedies of our recent war in Iraq has been the loss of secular government protection for religious minorities in Iraq, including the remaining more than ½ million Assyrian Christians. They are the direct descendants of some of the earliest Christians, who then brought the Gospel to many other nations. Let us pray earnestly for their protection—and urge our State Department, international organizations and media to monitor their safety quite deliberately. Let us act strong now, so that this threatened community is not devastated still more,” said Dr. Ron Sider, founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action.
The participants in the event, led by Dr. Paul de Vries of New York Evangelicals and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis, are alarmed at the violence and intimidation towards Iraq’s Christians by Islamist extremists. On November 3, 2010, Al-Qaeda in Iraq labeled all Christians in Iraq as legitimate targets despite their long and peaceful history in the country. Over 900 have been murdered and 54 churches have been bombed since the U.S. invasion. The number of Christians in the country has fallen from a population of about 1.5 million to 500,000 since 2003.
It is feared that the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq will lead to even greater attacks on the Christian community in the country, especially during the holiday season. Terrorist organizations have targeted Christian holiday services in the Middle East in the past and have specifically incited attacks on churches.
“The stories of what the Iraqi Christians go through should make it impossible for us to remain silent. All Christians are obligated to pray for their safety and to ask their church leaders to include a prayer for them during their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services,” said Rev. Robert Stearns, founder and executive director of Eagles' Wings, based in Buffalo, NY.
Organizers of the event include:
Dr. Paul de Vries, New York Evangelicals
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis
Dr. Ron Sider, founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Robert Stearns, founder and executive director of Eagles' Wings
Canon Andrew White, Vicar of St. George’s Church in Baghdad
Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, New York Board of Rabbis
Dr. Gary Kellner, International Coalition for Christian Leadership
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League