By NICOLE SCHIAVI JANSEZIAN, TRAVELUJAH—
While Christians and other ethnic minorities face brutal persecution and even death across the Middle East at the hands of Islamic terrorists, Israel is the safest country in the region for followers of Jesus.
And despite a war that ravaged Israel all summer, a record number of Christian tourists came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles this past week during the weeklong Sukkot holiday.
The ICEJ’s Feast gathering drew nearly 5,000 Christians from more than 80 countries this year, making it the largest Feast attendance in seven years. Prominent leaders of Jewish and Christian organizations took the occasion to call for action on behalf of the region’s persecuted people.
Dignitaries including World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder and Co-chairman of the Empowered21 Global Council and President of Oral Roberts University William M. Wilson joined ICEJ Executive Director Dr. Jürgen Bühler in signing a letter addressed to 120 world leaders.
“This letter gives an important voice to Christians who are being persecuted and even killed for their faith around the world, especially in the Middle East,” Wilson said. “Most Christ followers in these difficult situations will not respond with violence and therefore need global governmental authorities to stand with them against these injustices.”
Lauder has been outspoken about Jews needing to lend their support to persecuted Christians.
“Just as Christians defend Jews against anti-Semitism, just as Christians support Israel, we Jews have an obligation to speak out against the growing persecution of Christians in many parts of the world,” Lauder said.
“Islamist extremists have launched a full-fledged assault on our Western values, on our civilization, and Jews and Christians must work hand in hand to defeat this threat. For too long, the world has remained silent in the face of this evil. We must act before it is too late,” Lauder added.
Bühler noted that the participation of Lauder as head of the main umbrella organization representing world Jewry, together with leading Evangelical ministries, makes this event “historic.”
“The current plight of Middle East Christians is heart-breaking and even western churches have to do more to bring the suffering of our fellow believers to the forefront worldwide,” Bühler. said “But to have a prominent global Jewish leader lend his voice to this moral call for protecting the region’s persecuted Christians is unprecedented in modern times.”
The letter laments the widespread ignorance on the issue of Christians in Muslim countries: “The executions, persecution and uprooting of ancient Christian communities is an on-going tragedy, yet world leaders have largely ignored this problem and it is past time for that to change. […] The test of moral leadership right now is whether you will take up their cause and make it a priority. … Therefore, we urge you to speak out forcefully against the persecution and expulsion of Christian communities in the Middle East. We also call on all Western democratic leaders to take collective action in confronting this problem through firm diplomatic action against those nations that allow the religious persecution against Christians to continue. This is something that cannot be delayed. We all must act, now!”
The ICEJ Feast celebration took places at the new Jerusalem arena, the Pais Center.
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Nicole Schiavi Jansezian is a contributor to Travelujah and is the director of Christian Friends of Shalva (www.christianfriendsofshalva.org), a network of believers who have taken a stand for special needs children by supporting Shalva, the Association for Physically and Mentally Handicapped Children in Israel.