From A World In Motion, Issue 66 — INContext Minististries
1. The eight-day war between Israel and Hamas
The conflict between Israel and Hamas that lasted eight days resulted in the deaths of more than 160 Palestinians and at least five Israelis. Hamas is a militant Palestinian party that, since 2007, has ruled a mini-state in the Gaza Strip after its gunmen routed members of the longer-established party, Fatah. As an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has long been regarded as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, and Europe.
Conflict involving Israel should always be considered in the light of its far-reaching consequences and Biblical prophecies. This recent eight-day war highlighted the growing vulnerability of Israel: with a threatened nuclear attack from Iran, the UN recognition of Palestine as a state, the Muslim Brotherhood now ruling neighbouring Egypt, and the threat of a deadly civil war spilling over from Syria. Developments in Israel in the next few months could have critical global consequences and as Christians, we should be aware of this intensifying spiritual battle.
2. Morsi power grab
In November this year, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi seized absolute power by placing his edicts above oversight by the courts, after declaring earlier that Sharia law is the “main source” of law in Egypt. It is difficult to read about these events unfolding in this troubled nation without noticing their similarities to the events in Iran during the Islamic revolution. The dwindling Christian population is now in grave danger of suffering the consequences of the birth of ‘the next Iran’, which would be completely intolerant of Christianity and its followers. With nearly 50 percent of all Christians in the Arab world living in Egypt, the spiritual consequences of these developments could be catastrophic for the Church in this region. The close relation between Hamas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is also cause for great concern.
3. Civil war in Syria
The wave of the Arab Spring unrest that began with the Tunisian revolution reached Syria on 15 March 2011, when residents of a small southern city took to the streets to protest the torture of students who had put up anti-government graffiti. The government responded with heavy-handed force, and demonstrations quickly spread across much of the country. By November of this year, the country was many months into a full-blown civil war. Nearly 40 000 people, mostly civilians, are thought to have died and tens of thousands of others have been arrested. More than 400 000 Syrian refugees have registered in neighbouring countries, while tens of thousands more are unregistered. In addition, the United Nations reports that about 2.5 million Syrians need aid inside the country, with more than 1.2 million displaced domestically. The long-standing battle between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims was once again highlighted as the bloody war between these two Islamic factions within Syria revealed the struggle for power in this very strategic nation.
While Syrian president Al-Assad, a Shia leader in Sunni-dominated nation, is backed by his Shia ally, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the protests were mainly supported by Sunni-inspired Al Qaeda. Civilians, especially Christians, were caught in the middle and suffered the consequences of this age-old feud. Iran’s backing of Al-Asaad is once again closely related to Israel and the need to maintain a clear route to Israel’s borders.
4. Innocence of Muslims video
On 9 September, an excerpt of the YouTube video “The Innocence of Muslims” was broadcast on Al-Nas TV, an Egyptian Islamist television station. Demonstrations and violent protests against the film broke out in Egypt and Libya, spreading to 48 other Arab and Muslim nations and some western countries. From a Christian perspective, the film was offensive and cannot be condoned, but the extremely violent response was out of proportion to the act and was evidence of how fanatics are increasingly dominating Islam. Through global media, the world is constantly hearing of Islamic fanatics who are protesting violently, waging wars, setting up suicide bombings, slaughtering minority groups and taking over countries and continents.
And yet, these acts are not typical of most Muslims. Paul E. Marik writes the following about peaceful Muslims: “The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent majority,’ is cowed and extraneous. History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.” And on the spiritual battlefield, peace-loving Muslims will suffer at the hands of fanatical Islam if they don’t speak up.
5. Escalation of violence against Christians in Nigeria
In Nigeria, the rise of Islamic extremism at the hands of Boko Haram led to serious religious freedom violations in the north of the country, with the Nigerian presidency in the south seeming to be incapable of bringing the perpetrators to justice. Northern Nigeria is now one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. From a Christian perspective, this religious violence in Nigeria may be the most underreported persecution of Christians anywhere in the world, with more than 1 000 deaths every year. Yet it would seem that the wider Christian world has forgotten about those Nigerian brothers and sisters who belong to the body of Christ.
The killing of Christians in Nigeria would probably not feature on many “top five world news events” lists. Sadly, it wasn’t mentioned in many churches either, which makes it one of the biggest embarrassments and disgraces of the worldwide Christian Church.
During Christmas many Christians are incensed when municipal governments remove Christmas trees, when restaurants remove coloured balls and angels from seasonal ornamentation, when schools and offices yield to pressure and remove red and green decorations, and call Christmas holidays a Winter Break. But the very specific crusade against Christians in Muslim dominated countries seems to pass by unnoticed. Since Sharia law was implemented in 2000, over 13 000 Nigerians have been killed, most of whom were Christian. The greatest cause for concern is maybe not how long the suffering will continue, but rather how long the rest of the world will choose to ignore this. How can the body of Christ in the ‘free world’ remain distanced from these events?
Malachy Gwaitiyap, a Christian in Kaduna, shared his heartache: “Shall we continue to suffer in silence? Shall we continue to be the sacrificial lambs on the altar of bigotry of these Islamists? We have suffered enough.” And darker days may yet come for Nigeria’s faithful – a recent message from Boko Haram promised more attacks.