San Francisco Interfaith Council and Religious Leaders

Speak Out Against ISIS Religious Persecution


September 17, 2014



                Over the past number of months our nation has been watching with horror the tragic events that are unfolding in the Middle East. Our television screens have brought into our homes, and hopefully our consciousness, the complex challenges and humanitarian catastrophes that have engulfed the ancient civilizations of the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have been left displaced and are without the basic necessities of life. Many have even lost their lives through the unnecessary conflict. These are atrocities that many had hoped would not be possible in our day!


                Of particular concern to us at this time is the plight of the ancient Christian communities, who have coexisted with their Muslim brothers and sisters for centuries. This is a tragedy beyond proportion. "Convert to Islam, pay a Jizyah tax, abandon your homes, or die by the sword" is the choice given to Christians. This has led to complete eradication of Christians in parts of Iraq and unprecedented pressure on Christian communities in Syria.


                Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq, recently said:


"It has become obvious that Iraqi Christians along with other minorities have

received a fatal blow at the core of their lives and their existence whether through             displacing more than a hundred thousand Christians by force, or looting their                possessions, money, and documents, or occupying their houses for just being 

Christian! I visited the camps of the displaced persons in the provinces of Erbil and           Dohok and what I saw and what I heard is beyond any imagination!"


                As the suffering of our fellow Christians in Iraq worsens, it is hoped that the Interfaith Council could issue a letter to civic authorities, requesting more security and protection for the persecuted Christian community in the Middle East. As well as raising awareness to the tragic situation unfolding before us, it is also an opportunity to invite our various faith communities to increase their prayers to Almighty God for an end to all conflict and persecution. The long history and deeply rooted heritage shared by the various communities in the past, is a reminder that peaceful coexistence can be achieved.


                It is important to remember that along with Christians, many other religious groups are enduring religious persecution in the region. Non-conforming Muslims, for instance, are being crucified and their homes are attacked and marked with an "R" for Rejecter. The ancient Yazidi People have been driven by Islamic militants (ISIS) into the Sinjar Mountains west of Mosul. An estimated 40,000 men, women and children have been struggling for their lives in what has become a terrible humanitarian disaster near the Syrian border.


                It needs to be remembered that the actions of ISIS and other terror groups do not reflect a true image of Islam. The terrible actions these groups have perpetrated in the name of Islam and the Quran bring dishonor to the great number of Muslims who abhor what is being done in the name of their religion. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch has recently reaffirmed its commitment to peace and coexistence between Christians and their Muslim neighbors, stating:


"Because we are in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East

constantly affirm that Christians and Muslims are members of a single Middle

Eastern body that stands on citizenship and common life, we reject anything

that would first of all hurt Islam's reputation for tolerance, brotherhood and

peaceful life, which we have experienced, and secondly disrupts the right of

citizens to have a civic presence free from sectarian or racial pressures."


                In light of all this, it is imperative that we break the silence that has fallen upon indifferent ears and speak against the persecution of all people of faith in the Middle East.



Rev. Maggi Henderson, Chair, San Francisco Interfaith Council

Rita R. Semel, Past Chair, San Francisco Interfaith Council

Michael G. Pappas, Executive Director, San Francisco Interfaith Council


Right Reverend Marc Handley Andrus, Episcopal Bishop of California

Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, Third Baptist Church

The Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church of SF

Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco

Sister Chandru Desai, Director, Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center

Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco

Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Executive Director, Board of Rabbis of Northern California

Iftekhar Hai, President, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance, Islamic Society of SF

Reverend Mark W. Holmerud, Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA

Rabbi Douglas Kahn, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

Rev. Ronald Kobata, Resident Minister, Buddhist Church of San Francisco


For additional information, please contact Michael G. Pappas at (415) 425-9631.