“I was in Russia this past October and met with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and evangelical leaders, and we discussed at length the persecution of the Church worldwide,” Graham wrote in a Facebook message Wednesday, explaining the roots of the summit, which will be held in October.
“The World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians will shed a global spotlight on this crisis. We will bring delegates from around the world and will be able to join hands with people of other churches and denominations of the Christian faith to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ and to hear firsthand reports of the suffering that is taking place.”
Graham also referenced the Orthodox Church’s own history of persecution, especially during most of the 20th century under Communism.
“In the years under Communist rule, virtually all of the priests, pastors, and church leaders in Russia were imprisoned or executed by the Communists, and their graves are on the outskirts of Moscow and throughout the country serving as a reminder,” continued Graham.
“No church in modern history has suffered more than the church in Russia. … So Moscow will be a fitting and meaningful location for this much-needed summit.”
Graham’s announcement came off the heels of a report by Open Doors USA that 2015 was the worst year for Christian persecution globally in the modern era.
In 2015 an estimated 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith, which was a 50 percent increase from the year before.
“Islamic extremism continues to be the primary driving force behind the expansion of persecution,” stated Open Doors President and CEO David Curry.
“It is no longer just a Christian problem, but a global problem that must be addressed. … As the dominant power in the free world, [the U.S.] must lead the charge in bringing more relief and aid to those suffering.”
The summit comes as a collaboration between two groups, evangelicals and Orthodox, who have not always been on good terms