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ICC Note: At a press conference organized by Representatives Frank Wolf and Anna Eshoo, Religious Leaders announced a pledge of solidarity and a call to action on behalf of Christians in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. In countries that are home to the world’s oldest Christian communities those churches are now under attack. A broad coalition of religious leaders, spanning the denominational spectrum spoke out in support of the measure and called for the church to stand together and to speak out on behalf of Christians in the Middle East.

By J.C. Derrick

05/07/2014 Iraq (World Magazine) – A broad coalition of religious leaders and organizations on Wednesday announced a pledge of solidarity and call to action for American Christians to stand with persecuted communities in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria.

“The targeting of religious minorities in the Middle East is heart-breaking, and we should respond with a combination of tears and anger,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, hosted the event and urged American believers to pray, give, and advocate on behalf of suffering Christians. They also called on the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to create a State Department special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, which the House has twice passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“These are the original Christians of the world,” said Eshoo, who co-authored the bill and comes from both Armenian and Assyrian heritage. “Why the Western world has not had a greater appreciation for this really mystifies us.”

More than 175 leaders from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions signed the pledge of solidarity, including Anderson, Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Catholic archbishop of Washington, Canon Andrew White, chaplain at St. George Anglican Church in Baghdad, and WORLD Editor Mindy Belz.

Belz traveled to Iraq last month and chronicled the dwindling Christian population there in WORLD’s May 17 issue. The story features White, known as the vicar of Baghdad, who attended Wednesday’s press conference. He urged U.S. Christians to join their brothers and sisters who are struggling to survive: “You might be here in D.C., I might be in Baghdad, but we are one. We are together the children of God.”

White went on to reel off a list of experiences most Americans can’t imagine: He’s been shot at, kidnapped, and thrown into rooms with people who had their fingers and toes chopped off. He’s also seen terrorists blow up his church and medical clinic. “I will never, ever leave,” White told me afterward. “I can’t leave the people I love. I will be there until the last person is there.”

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