Main global church groups agree to tackle Christian persecution together
A group representing most the world's Christian churches and organizations is to pursue an international response to discrimination, persecution and violence against Christians and churches around the world.
This was agreed at a meeting convened by the Global Christian Forum in Strasbourg, France seen as a breakthrough on the issue.
It included representatives from the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal World Fellowship, representing some 90 percent of Christians worldwide.
On September 9 the group agreed to hold a global gathering on the issue of "Christian discrimination, persecution and martyrdom" scheduled for late 2015.
Preceding that meeting a number of significant actions will be undertaken, the Global Christian Forum said in a statement Wednesday.
The actions include:
• collation of the most recent and thorough data on religious persecution sourced from churches and organisations on a global level;
• production of a glossary with an examination of the use of language of discrimination, persecution and martyrdom, since many words and concepts are ill-defined and used in various ways;
• 'team visits' to four countries to explore the different nature of religious persecution.
The process will also examine the possibility that discrimination is taking place in secularised first world nations where legal compliance and secular practice is leading to discrimination against people of Christian faith.
"It is a strong sign of hope that churches and ecumenical organisations with such a diverse background are ready to work together to support Christians that go through difficult times," said Rev. Hielke Wolters, associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
"Religious freedom is important for all of us, whether Christian, Muslim or adherent of any other religion."
Larry Miller, secretary of the Global Christian Forum, said "The GCF exists to enable churches of all traditions to face common challenges together.
"It is highly fitting that the first of these initiatives is to support Christians around the world as they face discrimination, persecution and martyrdom in their communities."
Pastor Ingolf Ellssel, a representative of the Pentecostal World Fellowship Executive, said he was "excited about this initiative of the Global Christian Forum bringing world Christianity together and lifting up the voices of those suffering discrimination, persecution and martyrdom.
"I hope this is the beginning of a new process of unity in the Body of Christ."
Wolters said that joint initiative is matched by the WCC's endeavor to accompany Christians and churches in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria.
"We are grateful that we can strengthen this important work in cooperation with churches and organisations from the Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical traditions," he said.
Local church leaders from every continent will also be asked to describe their experience of persecution and discrimination in their regions.
It was agreed that half of the delegates to the consultation would be from churches that had experienced discrimination, persecution or violence due to their faith.
The Global Christian Forum said the initiative to explore the area of religious discrimination across Christian traditions arose out of its own global gathering in Manado, Indonesia in 2011, to enable all the churches to confront common challenges together.