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December 21, 201Pastor William Devlin of Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx borough of New York City, stands with Pastor Hanna Massad in Gaza in this photo shared Sept. 13, 2014, on Facebook.4The Christian Post – Nicola Menzie

Pastor William Devlin of Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx borough of New York City, stands with Pastor Hanna Massad in Gaza in this photo shared Sept. 13, 2014, on Facebook.

A New York City pastor traveling with a U.S. Yazidi leader to offer humanitarian assistance to religious minorities targeted by the Islamic State in Iraq believes Christians in America should do more to encourage believers living in some of the world’s most persecuted countries.

The Rev. William Devlin, co-pastor of Infinity Bible Church in the Bronx borough of New York City and a former politician, is as much of an activist as he is a missionary. When the City of New York banned churches and other religious groups in 2011 from renting public schools for worship gatherings, Devlin embarked on a 42-day fast, was arrested in an act of civil disobedience, and publicly confronted then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg during an interfaith breakfast about the city’s decision (which the current mayor has vowed to reverse).

As of late, the 61-year-old evangelical leader has been focused on reaching out to Christians living in persecuted or difficult countries, such as Sudan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Syria, Iran, and Cuba. Devlin was featured in The Christian Post this past summer after visiting with Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim who had been imprisoned for alleged apostasy.

Devlin traveled to Erbil, Iraq, on Dec. 16, along with Yazidi immigrant Murad Ismael, a 31-year-old research assistant at the University of Houston in Texas. The men met by chance in November. While Ismael’s stay was expected to last at least two weeks, Devlin was expected to return to the U.S. after a week in the country.

The men have so far met with displaced Yazidis staying at refugee camps in Erbil, according to an update Devlin sent Dec. 19 via email to CP. The New York City pastor wrote that they “heard many…heart-wrenching stories” from survivors of the Islamic State’s assaults. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has been for months waging a brutal and bloody campaign in parts of Syria and Iraq in an effort to impose a caliphate throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Islamic State militants have been killing en masse any non-Muslims and unsympathetic Muslims who refuse to support the extremist Sunni group’s crusade.

It has been widely reported how the Islamic State gained control of Mosul and Sinjar in northern Iraq over the summer, killing thousands of people, displacing more than 300,000 others, and forcing many women and young girls into sexual slavery or marriages with IS militants. In addition, as Ismael told CP in a phone interview on Dec. 15, numerous Christian churches and Yazidi temples were destroyed. He called the mass killings of Yazidis an act of “genocide.” The religious practices of the predominantly ethnic Kurdish Yazidis have been tied to Zoroastrianism, and reportedly include aspects of Christianity and Islam. Yazidis number anywhere from 600,000 to more than a million worldwide, about 500,000 of them reside in Iraq.

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