February 26, 2015
Dear Friend of Israel,
Jews and Christians share many things in common – a spiritual heritage, biblical values, and, tragically, religious persecution. It is with great distress and much prayer that I have read recent reports of horrendous Christian suffering in the Middle East.
Last week we all were sickened by images of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt who were brutally murdered on a beach in Libya by ISIS terrorists. Just this past week news broke that members of ISIS have abducted hundreds of Assyrian Christians – including women and children, according to some reports – in northeast Syria. Based on recent history, we can only imagine the grave danger these prisoners face.
Christians have also been a target in Nigeria, where the ruthless Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has offered the country’s Christian population an unthinkable choice: convert or be killed. One of the most recent attacks earlier this month claimed more than 100 lives in a Christian farming village in northeast Nigeria, and many believe one of the next targets is the city of Maiduguri, home to 200,000 Christians. The widespread violence has already caused the closing of more than 200 Christian churches in recent months.
Just as the Jewish community has seen a rise in anti-Semitism in recent years, the Christian communities in the Middle East and Africa have experienced their own persecution with the rise of Islamist extremism. This is certainly not the kind of shared experience anyone wants for our two faith communities.
Over the past 30 years of The Fellowship’s existence, I have witnessed much healing in the once-broken relationship between Jews and Christians. At points throughout history we have been each other’s worst enemies, but now we have come to embody the beautiful biblical truth: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
And we need that unity now more than ever to fight off the virulent hatred and violence threatening both our faith communities – and the entire free world. I have been moved by the sweeping Christian support of Israel and Jewish people worldwide, by the offering of financial support to bring victims of anti-Semitism home to Israel, by the outpouring of prayer for those facing hatred and violence because they are Jewish. I am honored to offer that same prayerful support to those in the Christian community who are in grave danger as well.
And this, friends, is the source of our hope. We can beseech our mighty God for protection. We can, and we must, rise up together and call such religious persecution wrong and unacceptable. And we can show those who would threaten Jews and Christians anywhere in the world that they cannot defeat us – as we are, indeed, standing together.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President