Baptist World Alliance, BWA News Release

Christians face mounting pressure in the Middle East

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There is a special need for Baptists to pray for and remember the Middle East. This call was made by Tony Peck, Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) regional secretary for Europe and general secretary for the European Baptist Federation (EBF). The EBF includes conventions and unions in the Middle East.

Peck expressed special concern for the Baptist Church in Gaza whose pastor, Hanna Massad, lives in exile due to conflicts and tensions in that part of the Palestinian Territory. Despite living in exile, Massad visits Gaza occasionally and Baptists there have recently expanded a school.

There is concern about the effect the wall being constructed by Israel is having on Palestinian life. The barrier, expected to be more than 450 miles in length at completion, is being built mainly between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank.

Due to the recent war and continued unrest, many Baptists in Bagdad have fled the Iraqi capital into northern parts of the country and to other nations.  This has had an adverse impact on the Baptist church in the city which has seen depleted attendance at worship.

Baptists in Syria are being severely affected due to the civil war currently taking place there. The largest Baptist congregation in Syria is in Homs, one of the cities where fighting between the government and opposition forces is most intense. Most Baptists have left the city.

In the meantime, Baptists in Lebanon are expending a lot of resources to assist the hundreds of Syrian refugees that are streaming across the border. Lebanon has the largest number of Baptist Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.

While there is hope for stability in Egypt, there is anxiety as Baptists and other Christians await the formation of a new government that, hopefully, will take actions to preserve religious liberty.

“Sometimes people forget that we have Baptists in this region,” Peck told the roughly 300 Baptist leaders and delegates from 40 countries that met in Santiago, Chile, during the BWA Annual Gathering, from July 2-7.

Delegations from the EBF visited several areas in the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, such as Palestine and Egypt. The EBF has also held a number of meetings in the region, including that of its Council in Nazareth, Israel, in September 2011, where some 140 leaders and delegates gathered, and the Executive in Amman, Jordan, in March of this year.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 8, 2012

The Baptist World Alliance, founded in 1905, is a fellowship of 253 conventions and unions in 130 countries and territories comprising 51 million baptized believers in 176,000 churches. For more than 100 years, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief, and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights, and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development.