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Persecution focus of global summit


WASHINGTON—Hundreds of church leaders from around the world gathered in solidarity at an inaugural summit in Washington, D.C., to speak up in defense of persecuted Christians.

Persecution—including imprisonment, rape, torture and execution—of Christians and other religious adherents continues to mount globally, according to research by various organizations. The repression and punishment of followers of Christ specifically brought together about 600 Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders and persecution victims from more than 130 countries for the first World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians. Sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), the summit began May 10 and concluded May 13.

The summit included addresses during its plenary sessions from Vice President Mike Pence and BGEA President and evangelist Franklin Graham, as well as at least two Southern Baptists—ormer convention president Jack Graham and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Christians in many countries face persecution "on an unprecedented scale," Graham said in the opening session. "Today, the Christian faith is under attack in almost every part of the globe."

Both Graham and Pence described the persecution by such Islamic extremist groups as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as genocide of Christians.

Since the Bible promises persecution for followers of Jesus, Graham addressed why Christians should speak against it.

The persecution of Christians, "always and in every way, is evil," said Graham, also president of Samaritan's Purse. "God may and can use persecution to bring about good, but we should never remain silent.

“(T)he real reason that Christians are persecuted is to suppress their faith, quieten their voice and marginalize the very word of God," he said.

President Trump "sees these crimes for what they are: Vile acts of persecution animated by hatred—hatred for the gospel of Christ," Pence told summit participants May 11.

To the victims of persecution present, Pence said of the president and himself, “(W)e are with you. We stand with you.

"Our administration is fully committed in bringing relief and comfort to believers not only across the Middle East but across the world," he said. "This president knows the terrorists will not stop until we stop them. And under President Donald Trump, we will stop them."

Southern Baptist public policy specialist Travis Wussow attended the summit and said of Pence's speech, "We were deeply encouraged by the vice president's comments that international religious freedom is 'an American foreign policy priority.'

"Vice President Pence is undoubtedly deeply concerned about the plight of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, and his presence at the event was significant and meaningful," said Wussow, vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "The event provided an opportunity for us to see many of our allies around the world and continue to drive forward on many of the projects we're working on."

Franks Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, also attended the event. He noted he was honored to hear Pence speak about the Trump administration's commitment to religious liberty and the protection of Christians and Christian churches.

"It was truly refreshing to hear a new emphasis on protecting the rights of all persons to be able to fully and honestly live out their faith," he said. "I left the meeting encouraged and grateful.” (BP)

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