NORTHERN IRAQ (Christian Examiner) -- A Baptist leader who recently spent nine days ministering to persecuted Christians in Iraq is urging American believers to stand up for their brothers and sisters who are facing death at the hands of ISIS – and he's drawing from the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in doing so.
"Our persecuted brothers and sisters are crying out to God and to the church," Coy Webb of the Kentucky Baptist Convention wrote in a column on the KBC website.
"How can we remain silent? Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right, 'Silence in the face of evil is itself evil," Webb wrote. "God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.'"
Webb serves as director of the convention's disaster relief unit and was part of a seven-member medical and children's trauma team of Kentucky Baptists that recently traveled to northern Iraq.
People there, he said, have fled from their homes to live in camps and refugee centers in 130-degree Fahrenheit heat. They have very little water, sub-par bathroom and kitchen facilities, and every day face battles over how to feed their "family and survive."
Life as a refugee "is difficult," he wrote.
As significantly, Iraq's Christians face the constant threat of ISIS, which the Christians say want to wipe them off the map.
"When ISIS came, they literally had to run for their lives," Webb wrote. "The choice was convert to Islam, run or die. Most had to flee in the middle of the night, many with only an hour or so notice. They had to grab what they could and flee, only to be stopped at ISIS checkpoints where they were forced to abandon their cars and personal belongings."
Many Christians were "betrayed by Muslim neighbors, whom they had lived beside all their lives," he wrote.
"Others watched as young daughters were taken from them to be sold as brides or slaves to ISIS fighters. The lives they knew were jerked from them in a moment. Most families arrived in places like Erbil or Dohuk with nothing but their lives," Webb continued.
One particular woman with two small children sat in a refugee tent and pleaded with Webb to share the dire story of Iraqi Christians to American believers.
"What did we do that we were driven from our homes? Our only offense is that we would not denounce Christ," she told him. "How could we deny the One who is Lord?
"We now know that the plan of ISIS is to wipe the earth clean of Christians. Their goal is genocide ... to eradicate every follower of Christ," the woman told Webb.
"We have lost everything: our homes, our land, our possessions and our trust of our neighbor. They have stolen our dignity. When you lose your home [and] your land, you have no identity. All that we have left is our faith," she said.
"Do churches in America know what is being done to us? Do they care?" the woman pleaded.
Christians can assist the Iraqi Christians in five specific ways:
1. By contacting your senator and representative and advocating for the persecuted church.
"ISIS is a threat to the stability of the Middle East, but they are a threat to our nation as well," Webb wrote. "They are a threat to humanity. We must be a voice for the voiceless. We must be outspoken in our cry for justice and in shining the light of Christ on evil. Not to speak is to speak."
2. By providing "tangible assistance to the more than 1 million refugees living in exile."
"Financial gifts can be designated to Baptist Global Response, the International Mission Board and to the World Hunger Fund," Webb wrote. "Among the current needs requested of our team was funding to establish a mobile medical clinic and rent assistance that would enable families to move from camps into apartments ($600 a month will put three families into an apartment). Not to act is to act.
3. By asking the U.S. government to allow Iraqi Christians to "immigrate to the United States" – and by being willing "as churches to sponsor refugees."
"Countless Iraqi believers would love to come to our nation and would be resources to our churches that would strengthen our ability to reach others from the Middle East who are in our state. Would your church consider sponsoring an Iraqi Christian family to find refuge in America?"
4. By traveling to Iraq and ministering to Christians there.
"Iraqi churches and other strategic partners are seeking churches and teams that will join them in this critical hour of ministry," Webb wrote. "Thousands of nominal Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims have been displaced from their homes and have come together across northern Iraq. ISIS has caused many Muslims to begin to question their beliefs, and forced nominal Christians to realize faith must be more than empty rituals. This has created a door of opportunity for the Gospel."
5. By praying for Iraq's Christians – and for their enemies.
"Pray for Christians who have been left homeless and without jobs," Webb wrote. "Pray that the Islamic State will be awakened to the truth of the cross. Pray for God to push back the darkness and evil. Pray that God will use persecution to expand His church and open new doors for the Gospel. Pray for God to be magnified among the nations."
The KBC team, he said, was able to assist 944 patients in multiple clinics and "provide the love of Christ to 1,055 hurting children." The KBC is a state convention that partners with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Read Webb's entire column here.