Franklin Graham urges prayer in advance of Moscow summit on persecuted Church

Franklin Graham is to join Patriarch Kirill at a conference in Moscow on the persecuted Church.Facebook/Franklin Graham

Last year was the worst for Christian persecution since statistics have been tracked, according to Franklin Graham, with more than twice as many Christians killed for their faith as the year before. 

The prominent evangelical leader and head of Samaritan's Purse was encouraging Christians to pray for a major conference to be held in Moscow this autumn. 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) are to bring together around 1,000 Christian leaders for a summit conference on the persecuted Church.

The World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians will bring together leaders from more than 50 countries and the conference will address what organisers say is "the mass persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Africa and other regions of the world, which is unprecedented in modern history".

ROC head Patriarch Kirill has previously spoken out about the persecution of Christians and it was a theme of the statement released by him and Pope Francis after their historic meeting in Havana in February.

It has also been a frequent theme of Franklin Graham, who believes evangelicals and the ROC share common social values and can work together on many issues. He noted approvingly in a Facebook post yesterday Kirill's statement in a February 16 interview: "I strongly believe that we should work together in order to save our society from de-Christianization – because, facing increasing atheistic pressure, which has become quite aggressive in some countries, Christians are being squeezed out of public life."

Of the conference, Graham says: "No Church in modern history has suffered more than the Church in Russia. 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. So Moscow will be a fitting and meaningful location for this much-needed summit."

He also refers to warnings from Prince Charles that "Christianity might be entirely erased from the land of its birth in the Middle East within five years" and says the summit will "shed a global spotlight on this crisis".

The event will take place from October 28-30.