On Sunday, Christians celebrated the most joyous and most essential part of our faith, the Resurrection. This year, there was a somber reminder to not forget our brothers and sisters in Egypt and in many other parts of the world who are persecuted and dying for their faith. Palm Sunday’s Egyptian martyrs should drive us to our knees in prayer, and their response should break our hearts as well as stir us to good works. Some churches had to cancel their services over the weekend, but I am so proud of U.S. Coptic Christians for their resolute and faithful attitudes, even amongst the fear and pain that comes from such a personal attack. The powerful Facebook video of Coptic Christians reciting the Nicene Creed in Arabic takes my breath away. I am embarrassed by my own lack of faith in comparison.
The problems are not new. I wrote about it in 2011 after the bombing of several churches in Alexandria. But since then, the attacks have continued to escalate, thanks to the expansion of power and influence of ISIS in the region.
In 2014, the Islamic State took the town of Qaraqosh, in Iraq, forcing Christians to flee by the thousands. In 2015, we saw the grueling images of 21 Coptic Christians being beheaded, and then another 30 Ethiopian Christians killed in Libya. In 2016, 25 were targeted with a bomb at a Coptic church in Cairo.
These latest attacks have already claimed the lives of 47 Coptic Christians in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. The situation has gotten so bad, Egypt has finally declared a state of emergency.
These are our brothers and sisters. We are all part of the body of Christ — His church — and they are being exterminated. A shocking chart in the Wall Street Journal compared the Christian population between 1950 and 2010. In Lebanon, the Christian percentage of the population has decreased 10 percent. In Egypt, 4 percent. In Syria, it has been reduced almost by half (from 13.3 to 7.5). On and on it goes throughout the region. And that does not take into account the more recent events we have witnessed since then.
The situation is dire, and it is now clear that the political powers in place are unwilling or unable to protect the Christian minority groups.
This is a gut check moment for American Evangelicals. We must no longer be silent. We have, for far too long, been content to swill our lattes on Sunday morning while passively “experiencing” worship. Meanwhile, our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters risk being blown to bits to join their hearts in worship and respond to pure evil by joining hands to recite the Nicene Creed. I am personally convicted and determined to do my part to help us grasp the situation and remain focused for the long haul.
This is not an easy problem with a simple solution. The situation requires a change of heart that gets us closer to the compassion and mercy exhibited by our Lord.
We must wake up. If we are to accomplish the mission that has been given to us by our Lord, we must gain a proper perspective when it comes to the persecuted church.
I am thankful for journalists who are doing everything they can to shed light on the situation. I wish more would be done.
But we, as believers, must be actively engaged. We must intentionally seek every opportunity to inform ourselves and those around us.
- Support organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and others who are serving those who are in dire need around the world.
- Contact the White House and ask President Trump to voice his support for the persecuted church to world leaders, strongly urging them through diplomatic means to protect Christian minorities in their own communities. Ask him to thank and to continue to encourage more public support from leaders like President Al Sisi of Egypt. Ask the Administration for more State Department engagement, including quick confirmation of an Ambassador on Religious Freedom. The first and foremost goal is for Christians and others to enjoy religious freedom and safety in their own countries.
- In war-torn countries like Syria, the U.S. must work with the U.N. and the international community to create safe zones for the hundreds of thousands fleeing ISIS and war. As a last resort for that small number seeking refugee status, we ask the president to quickly create the vetting process for religious minorities (chiefly Christians and Yazidis) seeking asylum from religious persecution and work with and create programs in cooperation with churches willing to shepherd and mentor them into our communities and nation.
Above all, we must be constant in our prayers. The remembrance and lifting up of our brothers in the Middle East should be the norm, not the exception, at our weekly worship services.
We know the fight against ISIS is ongoing. I am thankful that President Trump has said repeatedly that this is the Administration’s number one priority. But, as we engage the enemy, we must remember the victims of their atrocities as well.
Penny Nance is the CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest conservative women's organization.