Stating that the “global Christian Church cannot sit idly by watching our siblings in Christ being ruthlessly driven from their homes and in many cases executed for their faith,” an overture from Pittsburgh Presbytery hopes to bring attention to the “plight of the church of Jesus Christ that is suffering due to sectarian violence and persecution in Egypt and other parts of the world.”
The overture calls on the PCUSA to be “catalyst that calls all Christians across the globe to unite in support and prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering. This support should be reflected in direct interaction with the persecuted church through means not limited to but inclusive of:
- “Refuge and hospitality;
- “Mediation with civil authorities and local governmental representatives;
- “Mobilizing the global Christian community to defend, encourage and protect;
- “Leadership development and consultation;
- “Financial aid;
- “Pervasive prayer.”
“Our global situation at the dawn of the 21st century is pockmarked with growing sectarian violence that is sweeping innocent Christians into the fatal grip of merciless evil,” according to the rationale written by Pittsburgh Presbytery in support of Overture 40. “Jesus informs us that we will be persecuted, but we are not to ignore a sibling in need.”
The rationale refers to the New Testament book of Acts, which describes the “the trials and tribulation the first disciples endured, yet they intervened with the authorities reflecting the love of Jesus Christ and bearing witness to the truth of the gospel message. The church must be engaged to provide support and encouragement to those who are suffering. If the church of Jesus Christ does not stand up for their sisters and brothers in the faith, who will? Jesus warns in Matthew 25 that if we overlook the needs of those who are imprisoned, hungry, naked, and hurting then we have overlooked Him!”
Citing an article in the Washington Times, Pittsburgh Presbytery writes that “nearly one third of the total world’s population identify themselves as ‘Christian.’ There are 2.2 billion Christians. Of those, nearly 50 percent represent access to crucial resources that can affect a positive impact for support of the persecuted church; we are compelled to respond to the cry, ‘Hosanna.’”
Open Doors, an international ministry which has been supporting and strengthening persecuted Christians around the world for almost 60 years, annually ranks the 50 countries were Christian persecution is most severe. In 2014, Egypt is ranked 21st, while North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are ranked 1-5, respectively.
The organization also recently released data showing that 2,123 Christians were martyred in 2013, up from 1,201 a year earlier. Syria had the most martyrs with 1,213, followed by Nigeria with 612, Pakistan (88) and Egypt (83).