By Brooke Hill | Copy Editor
“We are Christians, and they don’t want any Christians living in Iraq.”
The voice of a small child filled 240 Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation Monday afternoon as videos played during the opening words of Wilberforce Alliance’s “Living Proof: Current Realities of Religious Persecution” panel.
The panel, consisting of Dr. K. Randel Everett, Pastor Jalil Dawood and Dr. Abdul-Massih Saadi, spoke in all three chapels Monday morning, as well as in Foster later that afternoon.
The three men come from various backgrounds and had different contributions to make regarding the conversation of religious persecution.
Everett has spent four decades pastoring churches before founding the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative in 2014 to focus on religious persecution abroad. According to their website, 21Wilberforce is a Christian human rights organization dedicated to fighting for religious freedom as a universal right. Everett said we are lucky to live in a country where we don’t have to worry about being persecuted.
“We as citizens of this republic, we can’t take for granted the fact that we have religious freedom,” Everett said. “If freedom is not available to everyone, then everyone is vulnerable to whichever group seems to be in power.”
Everett said people from other countries assume the Western church doesn’t care about the problems they have. He said most Americans just don’t know, and when they do know, they are unsure of what to do about it.
Everett said those who are persecuted have a much better understanding of the Bible and of Jesus than Americans.
“We need to hear about Jesus through their eyes,” Everett said. “And we need to understand scripture through their ears. The bible was written by persecuted people for persecuted people, and it makes sense to these people. It doesn’t make as much sense to me.”
Everett spoke about Matthew 5:10 and said the idea of “blessed are the persecuted and gentle” seems opposite of the American dream, in that Americans tend to think the affluent and the powerful are more blessed.
“We bet our whole lives on the American dream, and then somewhere in our experience we realize this ladder is leaning against the wrong wall,” Everett said. “But when you hear these people who are suffering for Jesus’ sake and they know the joy of the Lord, you begin to see the Bible through their eyes and you say blessed are the persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Dawood is a third generation Christian refugee from Iraq, and is now pastor of Arab Baptist church of Dallas and founder of World Refugee Care. Dawood said God allowed him to flee to Rome when he was in his teens. There, some missionaries he met shared the Gospel, and he accepted the Lord as his personal savior.
“I didn’t want to leave home,” Dawood said. “I like my mother’s cooking. I like home. I like the idea of freedom, I like the idea of living in a different country and all that, but I wanted them to be with me.”
Following President Reagan’s Reform and Control Act, which allowed immigrants under the age of 21 to come to America if they had family members there, Dawood came to join his brothers. He didn’t see his parents for 11 years and took the family about 23 years to reunite.
“I encourage you to be proactive because yesterday and today it is them, but tomorrow it could be you, and you would want somebody to stand by you,” Dawood said. “The world is becoming anti-Christian, and you want that to change for the better. I’m telling you that if you do that, God will bless you for that.”
Saadi is native of Syria and taught at Notre Dame University before coming to Baylor to teach Arabic. His grandfather persecuted and his father and uncle were born in city grandfather died in.
“We learned this history from their mouth and I always remember saying that was past, that was history, that will never happen again for us, especially in our generation in our modern world, coming to the 21st century,” Saadi said. “We would never ever imagine that that would happen one day, even to our generation. Where part of my family, we are forced to leave Syria because of persecution. Of course, some of my family, they are still there.”