TAMPA – An organization committed to supporting oppressed Christians around the world is planning a 5K race in Tampa this fall to raise awareness of the persecuted church.
“Joshuacord” is a non-profit, nondenominational Florida-based ministry whose mission is to “help and rescue those who can’t help themselves.” The organization works with a number of partners throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, where Islamic extremism and a lack of religious freedom are ever-present threats to Christians wanting to practice their faith.
Later this year, Joshuacord is planning a special 5K run in Tampa’s Al Lopez Park to raise awareness of persecuted Christians around the globe. As explained on the organization’s website, the November 16th “Joshua 1:9 Freedom Run 5K” is being held “to illuminate the cause of religious freedom and liberty.”
“Our goal,” Joshuacord’s website explains, “is to help raise awareness about the oppression and persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa, to be an advocate for the persecuted, and to activate Christians across America to stand united with Christians who are suffering for following Christ. The Freedom of Religion is a cherished freedom for all Americas and all those who want freedom.”
In addition to 5K runners, walkers and strollers are welcome, and prizes will be awarded to the top finishers. The race location is a course certified with USA Track & Field (USATF).
In an interview with Christian News Network, Joshuacord founder and director Patrick Carberry explained that the race’s theme from Joshua 1:9—“Be strong and courageous”—is an inspiration for Christians to step up and help the persecuted church. And, in addition to being a Biblical precept, Carberry said religious freedom has played a crucial role in United States history.
“We believe that the call to support the persecuted church is based on our nation’s history of religious freedom,” he stated. “American patriotism and religious freedom are intertwined throughout our history as a nation. Religious freedom was a major motivator behind our Founding Fathers, who believed that all men are created equal and should be free to practice their faith based on their freedom of conscience.”
Furthermore, Carberry noted, caring for persecuted Christians is in fact “a Biblical injunction to every believer.”
“About two-thirds of the commands in the New Testament are concerned with helping believers who are suffering or in need,” he pointed out. “Many American Christians have lost their sense of the real Gospel when it comes to helping those being persecuted. The Gospel is not about feeling good or being prosperous. It’s about sharing the love and Gospel of Christ with others. The Scriptures command us to care for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ; indeed, caring for the persecuted is a command that forms a core teaching of the New Testament.”
Religious freedom is vitally important to Joshuacord’s leaders, as many of them have personally experienced the persecution that is all too often common overseas. For instance, Carberry was deployed in the Middle East, embedded with the U.S. Army; Joshuacord’s director Mark Zajac grew up in Poland during the Iron Curtain years; and Joshuacord advisory board member Nermien Riad has spent years helping impoverished children in Egypt. Through various connections such as these, the organization strives to assist Christians who are under religious persecution.
Today, Carberry believes many Christians are unaware of the true lack of religious freedoms in foreign countries, partly because of a persistent desire to gloss over controversial subjects. However, he says the worldwide oppression against Christians is very real, and while tyrannical governments continue to play a role, much of the threat now comes from radical Islam. Joshuacord seeks to educate fellow believers by bringing the importance of the persecution problem to the forefront, and the upcoming 5K is designed to remind the Body of Christ of this reality.
“We have had very good feedback from churches, Christian businesses and runners across the bay area,” Carberry said regarding the response to the planned race this November. “We also encourage ‘virtual’ runners to sign up if they cannot join us in Tampa but would like to support the cause; they can register as a ‘virtual’ runner and we will send them information and a race day t-shirt to be a supporter of the first Joshua 1:9 Freedom Run!”
Carberry states they are anticipating approximately 300 runners at this point; however, “the more the merrier.” Those who wish to learn more about the race may visit the 5K website or register directly at Active.com.
“Many western Christians want to participate in the power of [Christ’s] resurrection but do not want to experience the fellowship of his suffering,” Carberry stated. “Well, many of our brothers and sisters are daily being persecuted—in some cases killed, tortured and oppressed—just for practicing their faith in Christ. We are one body and we need to help those who can’t help themselves. It’s not only our duty; it’s our privilege.”