Over 200 Christian representatives from a variety of denominations got together to issue a bipartisan congressional initiative in support of Christians who are  facing persecution in North Africa, particularly Egypt, Iraq, and Syria.Among the signatories are Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, former United States Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, U.S. Ambassador Dr. Joseph Ghougassian, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Chair Robert P. George, former Senator Michael Dukakis, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Dr. Russell D. Moore and Katharine JeffertsSchori, a bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Escalating violence and religious persecution of Christians and other minorities throughout the Middle East by extremist groups has been largely carried out with impunity and even occasionally with the acquiescence of state and local authorities. The resulting mass exodus of Christians has spiritual, humanitarian and geopolitical implications which need to be addressed.

The “Pledge of Solidarity & Call to Action on behalf of Christians and other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria,” was launched to affirm what is considered to be a moral obligation to speak out and act in defence of religious freedom for all. It seeks to address the silence regarding Christians in the Middle East who facepersecution from extremist Islamic forces that threatens   their continued existence in the region where Christianity has its roots.The initiative  pledges solidarity with those suffering persecution for their Christian beliefs and urges Americans“to pray and speak with greater urgency about this human rights crisis.”

George Marlin, Chairman of the Board for Aid to the Church in Need USA and signatory of the pledge said “The time to act is now,” and urged the governmentto take “ concrete action to protect these vulnerable communities and to urge the people in our parishes and congregations to pray for and support their persecuted brothers and sisters.”

Marlin stressed “This is not a matter of pitting Christianity against Islam, but to put a halt to the abuses perpetrated by extremist Islamic factions bent on the destruction of Christianity – groups which inflict suffering on the general population as well.”

The pledge describes the “sense of abandonment felt by the Middle Eastern Churches” as a result of the West’s slow and limited response to the persecution facing Christians in the Middle East.  Stating “It is our conviction that American foreign policy can be more effectively used to advocate for policies that protect international religious freedom for all” the pledge calls  for the creation of a Special Envoy on Middle East Religious Minorities; a review of foreign aid terms to ensure funds support religious freedom;increased assistance for refugees and reconstruction of affected areas.