CNA Staff, Dec 19, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders have challenged the incoming Biden administration to make humanitarian efforts for persecuted Christian worldwide, noting that Christmas is a time for solidarity.

In a Dec. 16 op-ed, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Toufic Baaklini, president of In Defense of Christians, encouraged U.S. officials and residents to reflect on the story of Christmas and to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians.

They said that millions of persecuted Christians across the globe are refused access to church services by their government. For the first time, they said, Americans are facing a similar experience as pandemic restrictions have limited or suspended services across the country.

“The theme of persecution lies at the heart of the Christmas story. The Holy Family were forced to flee their native land due to state-sponsored oppression,” they wrote in the opinion piece posted to the Wall Street Journal.

“As citizens of a global superpower whose lawmakers are responsive to their citizens, we are called to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians.”

They said there are millions of persecuted Christians who face violent or political oppression atop the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

According to Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch, Islamic militants such as Boko Haram have killed over 27,000 Nigerian Christians since 2009. This exceeds the number of ISIS casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Dolan and Baaklini said that in the Middle East, more than 1 million Christians in Saudi Arabia are unable to participate in worship, and Iranian officials continue to harass and arrest converts to the faith.

They also pointed to the impact of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Christians in Turkey and other countries. They said Turkish-backed militias have oppressed the descendants of Christians who survived the Ottoman Genocide.

They asked President-elect Biden to build on the accomplishments of the Trump administration by promoting international religious freedom.

“We hope President-elect Biden will build on the accomplishments of the Trump administration, namely its assistance to genocide survivors and priority on international religious freedom as a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.”

“As for America’s Christian citizens, we must never become complacent in the face of adversity. We must roll up our sleeves, organize, and advocate for persecuted members of the body of Christ,” they concluded.

Read More: CNA US News