In less than a week, Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) will host the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians, bringing together more than 600 participants from 130 countries.
The May 10-13 summit in Washington, D.C., will provide a platform for firsthand stories of persecution to be heard, collected, and documented. The summit’s goals, according to organizers, also include connecting victims, advocates, leaders, and people of influence to create partnerships that can help bring about change, while encouraging and praying for those who have faced beatings, torture, imprisonment, rape, and even death because of their Christian faith.
“We need to stand with Christians around the world,” stated Graham, President of BGEA and the international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, in a media advisory.
“It’s important to educate the American public and Washington about what is happening and how we can work with the United Nations and other government bodies to ensure that religious freedoms are protected," he added.
In a letter to ministry friends, Graham noted how more than 90,000 people around the world lost their lives in the past year because they were followers of Christ, and millions more live under constant threat of intimidation, physical attack, or harm to their family or livelihood.
“These are our brothers and sisters in the Lord,” he wrote. “We must wake up and pay attention to what is happening. It’s time to get up and do something – if we don’t, it will soon be too late.
“Ask God to use this unprecedented gathering to make a difference around the globe,” he added.
Notably, the summit was originally planned for October 28-30, 2016, in Moscow. However, after Russia passed last July a package of anti-terrorism amendments – popularly known as the Yarovaya law – that included heavy-handed requirements for speech on electronic media and restrictions on religious freedom, the ministry moved the summit to its current dates and location.
"Earlier this year I announced that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association would hold the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians–the first event of its kind in Moscow," Graham reported in a Facebook post last August. "We were looking forward to this significant event being held in Russia because no one knows modern Christian persecution better than the church that suffered under communist rule. However, just a few weeks ago Russia passed a law that severely limits Christians' freedoms."
Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2017 report on the state of religious freedom around the globe, and in it called on the U.S. Secretary of State to designate Russia as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) due to its continued use of its “anti-extremism” law as a tool to repeatedly curtail religious freedoms for various faiths.
A CPC designation is given to any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious.
This year, USCIRF recommended that the State Department again designate the following 10 countries as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In addition to Russia, USCIRF also found that five other countries meet the CPC standard and should be so designated: Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Vietnam.
By NRB Staff
Published: May 4, 2017