FIRST-PERSON: Iraqi Christians are suffering. Now is the time to act!
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- The eyes of the world are watching the crisis in Iraq. We know that 50,000 Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds are still trapped on a mountaintop, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of others are being forced from their homes across Iraq by ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Many are being killed by these barbaric extremists. Sadly, we now also know that the first American has been beheaded by these ruthless terrorists.
While the leaders of our nation strategize about this situation politically and militarily, I call upon them to stand strong for international religious freedom. Christians in Iraq are the targets of religious cleansing, suffering abuse, injustice, violence, and death. We cannot become paralyzed by the sight of this horrific injustice. When Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw the threat of Nazism he said, "Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." This is a time for action, especially by Christ-followers, both prayerfully and compassionately.
How severe is this humanitarian crisis in the Middle East?
The Middle East Crisis is a new phase in a larger crisis that has been intensifying over the past two years. The current crisis in Iraq is driving Christians and other non-Muslim minorities -- as well as Muslims who won't submit to Islamist rule -- from their homes. About 1.5 million Iraqis have been forcibly displaced. This Iraq crisis compounds the Syrian refugee situation, in which more than 9 million people have been driven from their homes. Jihadists have ruthlessly martyred Christians who did not flee.
Many of these families are very much like our own. They owned businesses and took care of their families, but the violence has forced them to leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Right now, they are enduring excruciating summer heat, and in a few months they will be facing bitter winter conditions without adequate shelter. BGR has been working with Baptist churches in the Middle East, as well as other partners, to provide the basic needs of life: water, shelter, food and sanitation. Southern Baptists' Global Hunger Relief provides most of the resources used to lessen the suffering and save lives.
Where will Southern Baptists land in this historic moment?
Millions are in desperate need. The international community is not rising to save these lives, and in any case, no one but Christians can speak the love and hope of Christ into these souls. We are praying that God's people will rise up by donating at www.gobgr.org -- a crucial way to help. We also are praying God would reveal his love to these suffering souls and raise up messengers to bring his hope to them.
How can you personally and your church corporately respond immediately?
There are two things each Christ-follower and church can do immediately:
1. We must give and give now!
Personally, Jeana and I have already given and will continue. We have given our gifts through Baptist Global Response. Cross Church has also made a special gift through BGR within the last few days, beyond all we are already doing through our Cooperative Program and our other SBC mission offerings.
What is Baptist Global Response?
BGR is a global Southern Baptist relief and development organization, incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Baptist Global Response connects people in need with people who care. The "people in need" are those suffering from acute problems such as disasters, wars, epidemics, etc. as well as chronic ones including poverty, hunger, poor health, etc. The "people who care" are Southern Baptists who want to be involved in making a significant difference in the lives of needy people worldwide.
Baptist Global Response can connect people and churches with this crisis in Iraq. In fact, they are doing that already. BGR provides a "word and deed" witness to God's love and the hope we have in Jesus. As Southern Baptist people, leaders, and churches, we must rise up and send resources immediately to respond in this unprecedented moment in history, demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus Christ among the peoples of the world.
Three reasons to give to BGR:
-- BGR's humanitarian work pairs word with deed. Works of love go hand-in-hand with words of truth. That is not true of other relief organizations, even some Christian groups.
-- BGR undergirds the work of Southern Baptists worldwide and works in close accountability through overseas partners, many of whom are local Baptist churches.
-- Some organizations will keep as much as 70 of a donation for administrative overhead. BGR is able to send a far higher percentage (up to 100 percent, in the case of hunger donations) because they work with Baptist partners and others who cover the overseas operational costs.
Therefore, Southern Baptist pastors, leaders and laypersons, it is time to rise up personally and in our churches to fund this gigantic need that is real and personal. Do it now by going to www.gobgr.org
2. We must pray and pray now!
We need to pray and pray now! How can you and your church pray?
-- Pray for God's miraculous protection and intervention for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ not only in Iraq, but across the world.
-- Pray for our leaders at Baptist Global Response as they navigate through this overwhelming and unprecedented global crisis.
-- Pray for our Southern Baptist people and churches to rise up and give a special gift at this time.
How serious is this?
Last week, I was on a global call with leaders of our Southern Baptist relief effort, who were there to meet refugees and ministry partners. As they briefed me on the severity of this crisis, I knew it was incumbent upon me to ask Southern Baptists to respond immediately to this humanitarian need.
Rise up and join me, as well as our church in responding compassionately, financially and prayerfully.
Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., (www.crosschurch.com) and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Learn more about Baptist Global Response at www.gobgr.org.