Church groups in Australia are joining forces in an effort to raise awareness of the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes due to ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria, with many others killed in horrific fashion by Islamic State (IS) militants. In September, The Christian Post reported that IS fighters are also raping Christian women and girls and forcing them into sex slavery.
As a symbol of unification against these crimes, leaders of several Christian denominations in Australia are inviting their members to take part in “Solidarity Sabbath” or “Solidarity Sunday” on the first weekend of November.
Church groups taking part in the initiative include the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney, the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Salvation Army and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Australian Union Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director, Pastor Ken Vogel, said it is “very appropriate” that Adventists join with fellow Christians in standing for those suffering for their faith.
“It is hard to truly understand what our brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing,” Pastor Vogel said. “While there is little I can do on the ground, I can pray. You can pray. We all can pray. In doing this together we also highlight to the rest of Australia and beyond what is happening in Iraq and Syria.”
This isn’t the first time the Adventist Church has worked with other Christian denominations to raise awareness on a serious issue. Church groups have previously come together for campaigns against alcohol and smoking.
As part of the “Solidarity Sabbath” initiative, Christians are being asked to wear t-shirts with the Arabic letter “N” (standing for Nazarene) as a visual demonstration of unity. The idea stems from the “I-am-N” t-shirt campaign started by The Voice of the Martyrs after Christian homes and churches in Mosul, Iraq, were branded with an “N” by IS.
Local churches looking to take part in the campaign can sign up at <www.acl.org.au/solidaritysunday>. Registered participants will receive an “Awareness Action Pack” to assist them in their preparations for the November 1 event.
“The time to stand up and speak out against religious persecution is now,” said James Standish, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director in the South Pacific Division. “Ellen White said, ‘We are not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude, doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience’.1 There is a Christian genocide going on in the Middle East and this is our chance to do something about it.”
Pastor Vogel said he hopes this initiative will also shed light on religious persecution issues taking place in other parts of the world. “As we pray for those in Syria and Iraq, let us also remember the millions upon millions of others, Christian and other religious minorities, who are suffering for their faith as well."