[Sydney Anglicans] Over 660 churches across the country will spend parts of their services this Sunday (November 2) in prayer for Christians, other religious minorities, and political or religious dissidents who are currently suffering open and violent persecution under the Islamist militant group, Islamic State (IS).
The campaign headed up by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which is also endorsed and supported by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, is intending to unite churches in prayer, while also raising awareness about the latest wave of conflict that has beset people in Iraq and Syria, particular those in religious minorities.
“We hope the prayer for and solidarity with these fellow believers from Christians in Australia will be a great encouragement to them in the midst of their distress,” said the Managing Director of the ACL, Lyle Shelton, in a press release.
“We also acknowledge that it is not just Christians suffering under IS, but that IS has also killed many Muslims and attacked anyone that does not share their extremist views.”
The ACL is asking churches to be involved in using social media and local newspapers to highlight the event, and hopefully keep the issue in the public eye as IS’ widespread and overt influence in the region enters its sixth month.
The Rev David Mansfield, the director of the Archbishop of Sydney's Anglican Aid, has been supporting this initiative, and encourages churches to be involved in Solidarity Sunday and the wider needs of those persecuted by IS in Iraq and Syria.
“The Archbishop raised this initiative [Solidarity Sunday] in his Presidential address at Synod, and has been behind supporting Christians in particular in that region,” he says. ”As his Anglican Aid, of course, we’ve been involved in that work, raising money and delivering money to provide immediate aid to displaced people in the region.”
Anglican Aid has been heavily involved in providing financial aid to the region. It has also been in regular contact with the Rev Canon Dr Andrew White, the vicar of St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, Iraq, and one of the main Christian leaders on the ground. Anglican Aid’s efforts go primarily towards financing trusted local aid programs run by Canon White and his aid partners.
“We’ve been getting updates from them and hearing what’s going on fairly regularly, “ says Mr Mansfield. "It’s also worth noting that the church there, under Andrew White, has had aid infrastructure attached to it for quite some time, and has been needed because the region has been in conflict for so long now. This latest trauma has arisen, and the local aid infrastructure has already been, operating mostly through people on the ground that have a sense of the grassroots needs. But obviously, this is a particularly intense period of stress in the region, which means there’s a lot of work to do.”
Alongside the widespread persecution of Christians, IS has also particularly targeted Yazidis, another local religious minority, as well as Shi’a Muslims. Members of these other religious groups, along with Christians, have been regularly threatened with death if they do not either convert, or pay a tax to the IS leadership. Mosul, the home of a Christian community that stretches back to the third century, was emptied of Christians in July of this year, with most former residents still displaced or living as refugees, mostly in Jordan.
Other churches and para-church organisations who have endorsed Solidarity Sunday include the Australian Christian Churches (also known as the Assemblies of God), the Baptist Union of Australia, the Catholic Archdiocese of Australia, the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Salvation Army, as well as the Barnabas Fund and Voice of the Martyrs.
For more information on Solidarity Sunday, visitacl.org.au/solidaritysunday