North America (MNN) — Over 600 Christian leaders from 130 countries converged in Washington, D.C. last week to highlight the plight of the persecuted Church around the globe. The World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians ran from May 10-13 and was hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.
Uplifting the Persecuted Church
Anthony Rhodes, the Vice President of International Ministry and Operations with Voice of the Martyrs Canada, attended the summit. He explains, “The purpose of the conference was to raise global awareness of the ongoing persecution of Christians. But then also for the Church [and] Christians in the West primarily to demonstrate our solidarity with them. They are our family, and they do not suffer alone and they should not suffer alone.”
Evangelist Franklin Graham presented at the summit, and a few politicians from America and Canada, including United States’ Vice President Mike Pence. One of the things they addressed was how to advocate for the needs of the persecuted Church to our government officials.
Additionally, Rhodes says, “We had a number of Christian leaders from around the world…share about firsthand accounts of persecution they had endured, or [share] from countries where they were experts and knew the issues that were going on — firsthand accounts from someone like Father Douglas from Iraq who was able to talk about the infiltration of ISIS into Iraq, and their move to flee the area and some of the trauma that resulted along the way.
“Amazingly, as we heard these stories, there was a common thread of, yes, these things are happening, and yes, they’re atrocities in their own right, and yet the Church responds with love — and that in itself brings a large amount of healing, not only to the persecuted believer, but to the community as well.”
The topic at hand for the summit was specifically to highlight the persecution of Christians. But Rhodes says it’s also important to recognize that freedom of religion is critical for everyone.
“While we focus on, of course, our persecuted brothers and sisters, we also advocate for religious freedom around the world, that every faith should be free to express their faith in public and do so without the repercussions of persecution or opposition.”
Yet, One Body
Rhodes interacts with Christians in multiple countries through his travels, and he says there are a few things the Church in hostile regions would like the global Body of Christ to know.
“They do not want to be forgotten. They want to know that their family members across the globe recognize they are suffering and are praying for them. They also ask that when I do communicate, for example, with Christians in Canada, that they would know that persecuted Christians are praying for us here in the West that we would remain faithful to our Lord and Savior.”
That unity within the Body was a key message at the summit, and something that should characterize the global Church.
“I think we look at Christians who are persecuted and we sometimes can think of the worst-case scenario and we wonder, ‘Wow, would I ever be able to endure that type of persecution?’ And I think what we learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters is, you know, it’s not about the amount of persecution we face in our life or the level of persecution we might face. It’s our faithfulness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, regardless of any opposition that comes our way.”
Standing With Them
So how can we stand with our persecuted Christian family around the world? “The number one way they can get involved is to pray. We need to daily lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters before the throne of grace,” says Rhodes.
“And then to raise a voice. You know, we can raise a voice on behalf of persecuted Christians, and we need to engage every level of government, raising these issues, and advocating for religious freedom around the world.”
Voice of the Martyrs Canada serves to and with the persecuted Church, and they invite other Christians to get involved in tangible support as well.
“If they go to our website, vomcanada.com, they can see different ways we are supporting our persecuted brothers and sisters, whether it’s through Bibles or various training or sometimes it’s relief and development after a time of attack and persecution.
“Each project we are engaged in is really seeking to strengthen the Church in a country where they are persecuted so they can continue to remain salt and light, and they can continue to fulfill the Great Commission.”