Top 5 news events of 2012 — from a Christian perspective

Air strikes during the recent Israel Hamas conflict. (PHOTO: Associated Press)

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.


  1. I thought the visit to the Middle East by Christian leaders was a key event for 2012. Their press release follows:

    “Our exposure to the Palestinian East Jerusalem and the Israeli-Occupied West Bank was overwhelming, one which traumatised us. However, even though we experienced that the Palestinians live in open-air prisons, they were still able to inspire us with their dignity and their commitment for a just peace based on human dignity for both themselves and Israelis. “We want more than human rights,” they told us, “we want our human dignity and reconciliation”.

    Being South African, it felt like walking into another apartheid ambush. We witnessed violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law on so many levels – the multiple Israeli house demolitions, the discriminatory Israeli legal system, the daily intimidation of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Forces, the Israeli Apartheid Wall and its associated regime of restrictions on movement and access for Palestinians, the damage to Palestinian olive groves, the imprisonment of a large percentage of Palestinians including children, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian water and land, the closure of previously bustling Palestinian streets and businesses, separate pavements for Israelis and Palestinians and a system whereby the colour of Palestinian vehicles’ number plates restrict them to certain roads.

    Our visit was undertaken in direct response to the Palestinian Christians’ invitation to come and see for ourselves what their circumstances are. We heard from Palestinian Christians how they have experienced a political and an identity catastrophe (the Nakba) since 1948 when the State of Israel was declared and 750 000 Palestinians became refugees. Moreover, Palestinian Christians experience a theological catastrophe as Christianity is used in some parts of the world to justify the oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people by Israel.

    What we have discerned is in alignment with what the Palestinian Christians propose in their “Kairos” document titled “A Moment of Truth. A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering.” This urgent appeal to the international community proposes resistance to Israel’s occupation as an act of love.

    We affirm the right to security, self-determination and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis. Real security is only possible through the exercise of justice. We are conscious how a literal reading of the Bible, one where the Israel of the Old Testament is confused with the modern State of Israel, can result in the oppression of people, the Palestinian people. We confirm that the crisis in the Holy Land is in essence not a religious conflict, but a political crisis brought about by the violation of international law by the State of Israel. As South Africans we believe we have a moral obligation to speak up and to stand with the oppressed. We do not want to necessarily side against the Israelis, but we do want to uphold international law and fight against any form of injustice.

    We support the Palestinians’ call for non-violent resistance. They ask for responsible Holy Land tourism whereby pilgrims who visit Bethlehem and the Old City of Jerusalem also visit Palestinian Christians – who are indigenous to those towns! The Palestinians are also asking the world for economic, cultural and other forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) – a strategy that helped us to end apartheid in South Africa. We believe that maximum pressure must be put on Israel to abide by international law. This should be done on the basis of “equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security” as stated in the Palestinian Kairos document “A Moment of Truth…”.

    In the words of Dr Braam Hanekom, Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church: “It was a tremendous privilege to visit Palestine in this time of Advent. I am more convinced than before that the non-violent alternative of faith, hope and love that the Palestinian Christians show us is the way forward.”

    Whilst we remain intensely and painfully aware of the weaknesses and the prevailing injustices in our own South African context, we are inspired to work against these and other injustices. In these weeks leading up to Christmas we want to show our full solidarity with all those who suffer in the Holy land where Christ was born.”

    Issued by Bishop Zipho Siwa (Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa) jointly with:
    •Dr Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa and President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
    •Reverend Moss Nthla, Secretary General of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa and Chairperson of Kairos Southern Africa
    •Dr Braam Hanekom, Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church
    •Ms Nonhlanhla Shezi, President of the Anglican Youth of Southern Africa
    •Ms Theresa Ramphomane, Coordinator of the SACC Women’s Ecumenical Conference
    •Ms Nobuntu Madwe, General President of the Women’s Manyano (Union) of the Methodist Church of South Africa
    •Father Michael Deeb, coordinator of the Justice and Peace Department of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
    •Father Zweli Tom, Anglican Priest and Secretary General of the Nelson Mandela Bay Consultation of Christian Churches
    •Ms Nonqaba Esther Dlula, Eastern Cape Anglican Church
    •Dr Stiaan van der Merwe, Kairos Southern Africa
    •Ms Marthie Momberg, Kairos Southern Africa

    • well done melody lovely stuff jesus is proud of you keep up the good work. this is surely the most important event of the year for the whole world to look at. groundbreaking. much more important than mass genocides and developing escalations happening in various parts of the world. As your quoted website encourages us, there should be no jewish rule in the land of jesus (the jew). perhaps you feel, as have many of the churches you list over the ages, that the major global problem of our age is the jew?

      fortunately we are told of all of this in the shortest book of the bible, speaking to us from 2500 years ago, where god gives us a good scriptural background to the ongoing conflict between jacob (israel) and esau (edom). god’s opposition to edom is focussed on one thing: violence. perhaps tellingly the hebrew word used here, ‘chamas’, very closely resembles our favourite folk heroes, Hamas.

      Live long and prosper (Deut5:33) – oh sorry another phrase borrowed from those pesky jews.