For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. [Ecclesiastes 3:1]
In 2015, I was working with Congressional Leaders endeavoring to help Assyrian Christians escape the constant danger of Islamic terror. I was thankful for a small but growing number of Democrat and Republican House and Senate leaders who were supportive.
The words of Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Northern Iraq, showed the desperation faced by the Assyrian Christians: Throughout all these long centuries, we have experienced many hardships and persecutions, offering caravans of martyrs. Yet 2014 brought the worst acts of genocide against us in our history. We now face the extinction of Christianity as a religion and as a culture from Mesopotamia [ancient Iraq].
Despite ISIS’ targeting Iraqi Christians, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) told me on January 15, 2015 there was no way that Christians would be supported in coming to the United States because of their religious affiliation.
When the PRM’s position about persecuted Christians was made public in 2015;
- There were no comments about the Department of State being un-American and cruel
- There were no tears from political leaders
- There were no protesters at airports
- There were no Christian leaders protesting with placards
- There was no mainstream media outrage
- There was no political hysteria
There were just suffering Assyrian Christians and the targeted eradication of Christianity from an ancient homeland.
Americas leaders turned their backs on Christians and looked the other way!
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016 the U.S. admitted the highest number of Muslim refugees of any year since data on self-reported religious affiliations first became publicly available in 2002. However, religious persecution against Christians and other minorities continues to increase across Africa and the Middle East.
I am thankful that the United States of America has eventually recognized that persecuted Christians and other minorities can now be a priority for our great nation.
Recently, many commentators have cited Matthew 25 as the basis for Christian care and support for the poor of the world, the sick, the disabled, and the homeless. Some Christian leaders are teaching that Jesus was referring to refugees from other religions when he said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” However the early Church, while providing pastoral care for many needy people, had an emphasis on caring for Christians.
Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth in the late 2nd century, wrote to thank the Church in Rome for the aid they had sent to his church. “From the beginning it is your custom to bestow your alms in all places, and to furnish subsistence to many churches. You send relief to the needy, especially to those who work in the mines; in which you follow the example of your fathers.”
A few years later, Tertullian noted how the non-Christians would comment with astonishment about the Christians, “See how they love one another.”
The early Christians sought to fulfil the teaching of Matthew 25:31-46, in which our Lord Jesus, in His story of the sheep and the goats, commends those who provide practical care for even “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” (verse 40).
Jesus himself refers to His disciples as His brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:49-50).
To neglect to care and support marginalized and suffering Christian ‘brothers and sisters’ is to neglect Christ Himself.
While it is important and necessary that Christians work together for the good of all people, whenever there is an opportunity, they are called to prioritize their care and for their brothers and sisters in Christ. [Galatians 6:10]
Bishop Julian Dobbs