The first ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians began Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C., and ran through Saturday, May 13. The summit hoped to raise awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.
Over 600 Christian leaders representing a variety of church organizations from all over the globe attended the premiere event. These attendees included some of the victims of persecution from 130 countries.
Reverend Franklin Graham was the keynote speaker at the summit. He is the son of evangelist Billy Graham and the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The summit was organized and hosted by the association and the Samaritan’s Purse organization.
Families of Persecuted Christians Recognized
Graham spoke at the opening session of the summit on Wednesday. He took time during his address to recognize,
the family members of some of the 20 Coptic Christians beheaded by the Islamic State on a beach in Libya in February 2015
Coptics are an ancient Christian church, which originated and is still present in Egypt. The horrific killings of these followers of Jesus were posted on YouTube. It is difficult to imagine the shock and sorrow of the surviving loved ones. They received a standing ovation at the session.
Graham went on to state the purpose of the summit:
This conference is not an ecumenical effort to unite Christians through theology or organizational means. This summit intentionally includes people from many denominations and traditions… As it has been said, the persecution of one Christian affects us all.
The stories of martyrs such as the Coptics can help raise much-needed awareness and support of persecuted Christians.
Vice President Mike Pence Speaks
Vice President Mike Pence was among the many luminaries who spoke at the summit. He addressed the crowd on Thursday, May 11. Pence spoke words of support and encouragement while acknowledging the reality of widespread global persecution of Christians.
He noted that believers in Jesus are persecuted in over 100 countries around the world. Over 200 million Christians face:
intimidation, imprisonment, forced conversion, abuse, assault, or worse, for holding to the truths of the Gospel.
Pence reminded the attendees of the bombings of churches that took place this last Palm Sunday, April 9, in Egypt:
I was just this weekend with a pastor who — from Egypt who spoke of the images that day, of seeing the palms the people carried into church on the ground, marked with the blood of the injured…
The vice president is known for his Christian faith, and several leaders at the summit were confident he shares their concerns. He sought to assure them that the Trump administration is serious about combating persecution against Christians, wherever it may occur.
The Reality of Persecuted Christians
The story of the persecution of Christians globally is a story of religious genocide. Hundreds of millions, of faithful believers, face this adversity, with a severity the average disciple of Jesus in the United States cannot fathom. The suffering among Christians is greater than ever before.
The stories of individuals who face violence because of their faith are both inspiring and shocking. The case of Asia Bibi, in Pakistan, illustrates this.
Along with her husband and children, Bibi was one of three Christian families in a village of about 1,500. She became involved in a discussion with fellow workers:
After a discussion on June 19, 2009, Asia responded to the women by sharing her faith in Christ. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told the women, “and yours is not true.” The Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia, who was then locked in a closet. An announcement from the mosque loudspeaker declared that Asia would have her face blackened and be paraded through a village on a donkey. Christians informed the police, who immediately rescued her from being beaten, but Muslim authorities later pressed charges against the Christian woman.
Asia was imprisoned and sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws. However, in 2015, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned the sentence. Additionally, the court initiated a complete review of the evidence. She languishes in prison to this day.
The Response to Persecution of Christians
Christians suffer similar kinds of persecution, including murder, in nations all over the planet. From North Korea to Columbia, extreme persecution is present. Just last year, 2016, about 90,000 Christians were killed due to violent oppression of their faith.
The response to such suffering for Christians is anchored in the biblical admonition — Hebrews 13:3
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
There are several non-profit organizations dedicated to aiding those who suffer for Jesus wherever they may be found. Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs are such entities. These servants of the persecuted Church help bring relief and liberty for oppressed Christians.
These organizations risk entry into areas where their presence is often in violation of the law. They bring aid and bibles where, doing so, is an illegal act. They also have the best source of information about the extent of misery. And, they have extensive knowledge about individual cases where Christians are persecuted.
There is one key element that is often spoken of but rarely taken seriously in combatting this attempted genocide. The main request of those in danger, by cultures and states hostile to the Gospel, is prayer. Pray that they might be strong to keep their faith and that their persecutors may see the Lord’s love in them.
This first World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians is raising awareness and, hopefully, bringing believers to prayer for the modern-day martyrs for Jesus. It is a promising beginning toward a hopeful future.
By D.T. Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne
CBN NEWS: Franklin Graham Opens World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians 7-9pm
The Los Angeles Times: Islamic State beheads Egyptian Christians in Libya: U.S. condemns killings
THE CHRISTIAN POST: Franklin Graham Reveals the ‘Real Reason’ Christians Are Being Persecuted
THE CHRISTIAN POST: 90,000 Christians Killed in 2016, 1 every 6 Minutes: Study
Open Doors: WORLD WATCH LIST
The Lockman Foundation: New American Standard Bible, updated edition
The Voice of The Martyrs: PAKISTAN: STILL WAITING
The Washington Post: Pence: America will prioritize protecting Christians abroad
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Imagens Cristãs Flickr Page – Creative Commons License