By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Why faith groups can work together to combat religious violence
Johnnie Moore - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Johnnie Moore calls himself a generalist. His willingness to go wherever he feels God is calling him has led him to a variety of vocations in education, film production and, most recently, interfaith activism.

After graduating from Liberty University in Virginia in 2006 with an M.A. in religion, Moore remained on the campus to teach, eventually becoming the school's vice president for executive projects and media relations. Next, he turned his attention to Hollywood, serving as producer Mark Burnett's chief of staff during projects like "A.D. The Bible Continues."

Then, an unexpected opportunity to meet with Middle Eastern leaders shifted Moore's focus to religious violence. He started writing and speaking about the need for faith communities to join together to combat extremists and protect increasingly vulnerable Christian populations. His book about this issue, "Defying ISIS," was published in April.

Moore's passionate efforts to protect Christians in Iraq led the Rev. Andrew White, an Anglican bishop known as "the Vicar of Baghdad," to describe him as "one of the world's leading spokespersons for Christians in the Middle East."

"I never imagined becoming a prominent voice on the topic. But one of the reasons why my voice has been so prominent is because so few people were talking," said Moore, who is CEO of the Kairos Co., a public relations agency he founded.

Moore spoke with Deseret News National this week about the ongoing threat to religious minorities in the Middle East and the important role faith communities can play in combatting violence.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Our cover story this week is about Muslims and Christians working together to support the dwindling population of Iraqi Christians. Is it easier to bridge theological differences when people's lives are at stake?

The fact is that (members of) ISIS are equal opportunity psychopaths. They've killed more Muslims than anyone else and they've particularly targeted religious minorities like Christians.

Yes, it makes it a lot easier for us to come together when the same group has pointed its weapons at us. It's brought us together. And it's really unfortunate that it's taken such an atrocity for Muslims and Christians and everybody else to lock arms.

How would you characterize humanitarian efforts to help Christians in the Middle East?

I think they've been quite dismal actually. We're witnessing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. We're witnessing a genocide against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. The world has basically been quiet.

It's not that the world hasn't provided some assistance, but comparable to the scale of the crisis, our response has been dismal.

The irony of all of this is that now the world is going to have to spend the same amount of money we refused to spend early on to resolve some of the crisis or soften it to take care of refugees showing up at the borders of countries all across Europe.

Your book, "Defying ISIS," was released this year. How did you become involved in this issue?

Sometimes life just brings an issue to you, which is what happened for this crisis.

I was travelling with a friend in the Middle East and ended up in an ecumenical meeting between Muslims and Christians called by the Muslim king of Jordan one year before ISIS took Mosul (Iraq's second largest city.) And so I was in a meeting with the king, the prince in charge of religious affairs, three Catholic cardinals, five Orthodox patriarchs, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches and famous (Christian) pastors like Rick Warren.

We were discussing the threat against Christians in the Middle East, and I listened for days as they described exactly what we've now seen. There's been a slow decline of Christians in the Middle East. There were more than 1 million Christians in Iraq 10 years ago and now it's closer to 150,000. In Syria four years ago, there were 1.1 million Christians and now there are 400,000.

These leaders all saw this coming and they were screaming about it. By happenstance, or, if you believe like I do, by providence, I was in that room at that time and I believed I had a responsibility to start talking about the threat to Christians.

Do interfaith humanitarian efforts improve the perception of Muslims in the U.S.?

Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. The fact is that most Christians in this country don't even know a Muslim.

Just like (Christians) hate it when Muslims say all Christians are crusaders, it's equally ridiculous when Christians put all Muslims in the category of extremists.

I don't even say "moderate Muslim" anymore. I just say they're normal Muslims compared to the crazy people who call themselves Muslims but are terrorists.

We don't believe the same things about God, scriptures or about faith, but we have to stand together in defiance of hate. We need to see more of that.

I'm very proud that all of my work in the Middle East began at the invitation of a Muslim king.

Why is it important for different faith groups to work together during global crises?

The faith communities of the world can do things that no government or humanitarian organization can do. We're on the ground.

If we collaborated together, we could in the blink of an eye make this world a better place. We could with more efficiency take care of the most egregious problems around the world.

One of the reasons the world continues to suffer is because people of faith have not united together in moments of suffering. I have a vision that we will all be as committed as possible to our own individual faiths and yet we would find no conflict in working together for the common good.

I believe it's the best of faith that defeats the worst of religion. The more that we stand together, the less often we'll have problems like we're currently seeing.
Sign up for our e-newsletters