End Christian Persecution: A Call for Global Action and a Reflection on Progress

by | May 29, 2024 | Editorial and Analysis, Religion

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As the Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC), we believe it is imperative to address the grave issue of Christian persecution, a tragic reality that affects millions around the globe. This persecution, ranging from subtle discrimination to outright violence and martyrdom, is an affront to human dignity and religious freedom. It is vital to not only end this injustice but also to recognize and build upon the progress made thus far.

The Importance of Ending Christian Persecution

Christian persecution is not merely a religious issue but a human rights crisis. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every individual should have the liberty to worship freely without fear of violence or discrimination. Persecution undermines this principle, leading to societal instability and suffering.

The impact of persecution extends beyond individual victims. It tears at the fabric of communities, fosters hatred and division, and often destabilizes entire regions. When Christians, or any religious group, are targeted, it signals a broader assault on pluralism and tolerance. In a world where diverse beliefs should coexist peacefully, such persecution is a threat to global peace and security.

Furthermore, ending  Christian persecution is essential for preserving cultural and religious heritage. Many Christian communities have deep historical roots, contributing to the rich tapestry of human civilization. The destruction of churches, monasteries, and religious artifacts erases invaluable parts of our shared history.

OPAC was established to provide public advocacy for the global Orthodox Christian Church, and to promote, support, defend and champion Christian communities worldwide in the face of persecution, exclusion, and prejudice. We are committed to defending sacred space, whether it be physical, intellectual, moral, or spiritual; to speak for the voiceless, to listen to the unheard, and to manifest the righteous causes of Christian Faithful everywhere.

Orthodox Christianity and Christianity in general are under attack by cultural misappropriation, discriminatory practices toward minorities, and direct persecution around the world. OPAC has addressed these conditions with forceful and honest advocacy to expose these anti-religious trends and garner support to reverse them when possible.

OPAC is a results based organization

 Despite the challenges, there have been significant strides in the fight against Christian persecution. International awareness and advocacy have increased, leading to tangible improvements in some regions.

Global Advocacy and Legislation: Organizations such as OPAC, Open Doors, Redeem, and International Christian Concern have tirelessly worked to bring the plight of persecuted Christians to the forefront. Their efforts have influenced policymakers, resulting in legislative measures aimed at protecting religious freedom. The United States’ International Religious Freedom Act and the establishment of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) are notable examples.

Grassroots Movements: Local efforts, often led by brave individuals and communities, have made a difference on the ground. These grassroots movements work to support victims, rebuild communities, and foster resilience in the face of persecution.We have partnered with an Orthodox community in a war-torn Middle East country and helped initiate a religious education curriculum for people of all ages who want to learn the word of God.  We have supplied nearly 1,000 Bibles in their native language, along with hundreds more educational books; and, we helped raise funds for this program and have seen it grow exponentially.

OPAC Co-Founders George Gigicos and Andrew Veniopoulos present funds to the Safe Return Center in Iraq.

Supporting those who have experienced persecution: OPAC undertook a significant humanitarian mission to Iraq, aimed at witnessing firsthand the severe persecution faced by Christian communities.  OPAC Co-founders George Gigicos and Andrew Veniopoulos, traveled to various towns deeply affected by the ongoing conflicts and systemic violence against Christians, mainly at the hands of ISIS, providing much-needed solidarity and support to these communities.   During the visit, OPAC met with survivors, listening to their harrowing stories and offering both moral and material support.  OPAC also distributed donations to help alleviate the immediate needs, such as to the rebuilding of churches destroyed by ISIS, job training to victims and survivors, and ongoing medical needs to the community of the last surviving Church in Mosul.  Our efforts are a vital demonstration of compassion and commitment to preserving the rights and dignity of Christians in Iraq.

Media and Awareness Campaigns: Increased media coverage and awareness campaigns have brought global attention to the issue. Documentaries, news reports, and social media campaigns have mobilized public opinion and pressure on governments to act. When in June 2022, fifty people were murdered at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Ondo State, Nigeria, OPAC immediately issued a statement condemning the attacks and called on Nigerian President Buhari ‘to protect the peaceful Christian population-the largest in Africa-from extremist terrorist violence’. This statement was picked up by the Nigeria Daily Post which prompted the President to respond to our statement “Let us show them that Nigerians will never be bullied by cowards, extremist or terrorists”.  With our advocacy, and with our partners in the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, we signed a letter on behalf of Christians in Nigeria to put Nigeria back on the watchlist for anti-Christian violence.

Raising Funds for the people of Gaza: The Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC) has played a significant role in aiding the community of St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza following the destruction caused by an Israeli airstrike. After the church was hit, resulting in significant casualties and damage, OPAC immediately partnered with the U.K. charity, Mosaic Middle East and mobilized efforts to provide immediate humanitarian assistance.

OPAC, in collaboration with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Mosaic Middle East has been instrumental in delivering essential supplies to the innocent civilians of Gaza. These efforts include providing funds, over $60,000; for food, water, and medical supplies to the many displaced families taking refuge in the church compound.

Archbishop Alexios helps distribute food at the St.Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza.

100% of the donations collected, from concerned citizens all over the world are being used to ensure that the church can continue to serve as a sanctuary for the displaced, providing daily meals and other essential services.

Through these concerted efforts, OPAC is helping to rebuild not just the physical structure of St. Porphyrius Church, but also providing critical support to its community during a time of dire need.

The Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC) has also taken a clear stance against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and criticized the role of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Since the invasion began, OPAC has issued multiple statements condemning the aggression and the complicity of the Russian Orthodox Church’s leadership.

In its statements, OPAC has highlighted the devastating impact of the war on Ukrainian civilians and called for international support for Ukrainian refugees. They have specifically urged corporations to continue their aid to these refugees, emphasizing the humanitarian crisis resulting from the conflict. Additionally, OPAC has called for sanctions against the Russian Orthodox Church’s leadership, particularly targeting Patriarch Kirill, due to his support and ideological justification for the invasion.

OPAC’s condemnation of Patriarch Kirill focuses on his failure to denounce the invasion and his alignment with Kremlin propaganda. Patriarch Kirill has framed the war as a metaphysical battle and has provided ideological backing for Russia’s actions, which OPAC and many others in the Orthodox community find reprehensible. This stance has led to significant tensions within the Orthodox Church, with many Ukrainian Orthodox Christians breaking ties with the Moscow Patriarchate because of Kirill’s support for the war.

Overall, OPAC’s position is clear: we stand against the invasion of Ukraine, condemn the support of the Russian Orthodox Church’s leadership for this aggression, and call for actions to mitigate the humanitarian crisis and hold those responsible accountable.

At OPAC, we are not theologians, academics, or religious scholars. Rather, we are three guys that see a lot of bad things going on in the world. We have adopted a very simplistic approach to winning.  We believe that to be able to effectively advocate, talking into the echo chamber doesn’t work. You must enter the danger zone and see what you’re advocating for. You must talk to the people, listen to their stories, and truly feel their pain. We agree with the late great Elvis Presley when he sang, it’s time for “a little less conversation, a little more action please.”

 

 

Andrew Veniopoulos is the Co-Founder and Vice-Chairman of the Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC). He is also the Co-Founder of the Dynamis Media Group and the Co-Publisher of NeaProini.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dynamis Media Group llc, NeaProini.gr or NeaProini.us. Any content provided by our authors and/or contributors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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