WEA Secretary General Urges Religious Liberty for Arab Christians at Conference in Jordan
New York, NY - September 5, 2013
On September 3rd and 4th, 2013, Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), spoke at a conference in Amman, Jordan, convened by King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein to address ‘the challenges facing Arab Christians,’ in particular the situation in Syria and Egypt. Representatives of various churches in the region were invited to ‘unite and give voice to the leadership of Arab Christian Churches (…) and, together, to discuss and find possible solutions.’
In his speech, Dr. Tunnicliffe addressed the increasing suffering and persecution of Arab Christians in recent years, stating that “this is despite the fact that Arab Christians have been loyal citizens in all the countries of the Arab world for two thousand years.”
He emphasized the importance of religious freedom for a prospering society and that “Christians in the Arab world deserve to be treated respectfully and with honor.” He said: “All they ask is to be allowed to live in peace and to faithfully practice their faith, in the same way as their neighbors and fellow citizens are able to practice theirs.”
In both countries, Syria and Egypt, Christians have been victim of targeted attacks from Muslim extremists and have asked for continuous prayer.
In light of current discussions of a possible military intervention in Syria, Dr. Tunnicliffe sent a letter from the conference to the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council, stating that Christians in the region clearly oppose these plans.
“I think I can say that there is a major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention by the United States will have a detrimental effect on the situation and in particular for Christians in Syria,” he wrote, adding that “Christians have already been threatened in Syria by some of the opposition indicating that a post regime Syria will be Muslim and Christians will not be welcome.”
In regards to the Syrian refugee crisis, Dr. Tunnicliffe mentioned Jordan as example for the region and said: “Today Jordan graciously and generously bears the burden of many refugees from neighboring countries. We evangelical Christians are grateful to His Majesty King Abdullah for his country’s support and welcome of these refugees and we are encouraging Christians all around the world to support your efforts.”
Mark Burnett and Roma Burnett-Downey, WEA Ambassadors and producers of the TV mini-series ‘The Bible’, also attended the conference and spoke about the importance of the unity of Christians to face the current situation.
“As Christians of all traditions face discrimination, persecution and threat, now is the time to link arms together in a unified love to respond to these challenges together,” Mrs. Burnett said, after sharing of her own experience of violence and discrimination in the Northern Ireland conflict.
Mrs. Burnett concluded her remarks by quoting the Anglican Minister and Christian Statesman, Dr. John Stott: “I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the honor of Christ than that the church should be, and should be seen to be, what by God’s purpose and Christ’s achievement it already is – a single new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters who love their Father and love each other, the evident dwelling place of God by his Spirit. Only then will the world believe in Christ as Peacemaker.”
“It is our hope and prayer that Christians in the Middle East in spite of their differences will be united together in a common bond of God’s love,” she added.
Dr. Tunnicliffe remains in Jordan for a few more days to meet with senior Jordan officials and evangelical leaders, and to visit refugee camps on the Syrian border.
The WEA is joining other world Christian bodies for a day of prayer for Syria on September 7th.