As war and persecution in the Middle East threaten the existence of ancient Christian communities, a prominent church leader from the Assyrian Church of the East visited our nation’s capital this week to deliver an urgent plea for help.
Bishop Mar Awa Royel leads the Assyrian Church of the East Diocese of California. In Washington, D.C., he warned that immediate action must be taken to help Middle Eastern Christians before it’s too late.
“We have a systematic destruction of the ancient Assyrians, if you will, through the artifacts, and also the modern Assyrians, modern Assyrian Christians,” Bishop Royel said.
“And this leads us to believe that this is a plan that is very calculated, very systematic and I would add that, it could be defined as genocide,” he said.
Bishop Royel suggested that without strong, decisive action from the West, Assyrian Christians–one of the oldest Christian communities in the world–could face annihilation. He said what Middle East Christians are facing today is martyrdom truly defined.
“We are going back to the early Church, what we read about in the book of Acts, to the martyrdom of Saint Stephen who was the first martyr,” he warned.
In late February, ISIS drove 5,000 Assyrian Christians from their homes in northeastern Syria in and around the city of Tal Tamr. As many as 350 of them were kidnapped.
CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck is the author of the new book, ISIS Exposed. He said only strong leadership and a forceful response against ISIS will save the ancient Christian communities.
“They need to be decisively crushed,” Stakelbeck said. “I think what we did in World War II to the German war machine, to the Japanese war machine–we crushed them, we demoralized them, their ideology was proven bankrupt. They were just defeated, soundly defeated. We need to do that with ISIS right now.”
Bishop Royel said people around the world also need to pray.
“We should pray for the immediate release of the innocent children and women and elderly who have been kidnapped. We need to pray that the governments in the West will feel the urgency of the matter and act accordingly,” the bishop urged.
“And also we should pray for our enemies,” he added. “That may be difficult to say, but we should pray for those who are perpetrating these atrocious acts against the Assyrian Christians because Christ has taught us to do so.”