Prayer Blog 19th – 25th April
We are used to hearing the horrors meted out to persecuted Christians around the world, but it came into our living rooms last Wednesday night in the form of a programme called ‘Kill the Christians’ which focused on the Middle East, the birth place of Christianity. You can catch it on the iplayer at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer.
When we read about the exploits of Saladin or Sulamein the Magnificient in conquering land for the Caliphate, we regard it as ancient history, not something that immediately speaks of suffering Christians about to be wiped out by the forces of Islamic State.
Some of us come to this with a background of supporting Walter Waheed in the Punjab. We will know that the Christian school that he has built had to have a security wall built around it and to have a gun-bearing security guard in place when the school is in session to prevent attacks by the Taliban. Still others of us were privileged last year to hear Iraqi Christian, Nabil Omeish of the Iraqi Bible Society share his experiences of the situation in Northern Iraq where Islamic State holds sway over much of the territory.
There are some real quandaries to consider. What would we do as Christians faced with a choice between backing the rebel forces in Syria, heavily influenced by IS and the government forces of President Assad, who have been indiscriminate in their bombing campaigns and brought much criticism from western democracies, but nevertheless support freedom of religion which protects Syrian Christians? Is it more important for the Church in Iraq to maintain a viable Christian community as a witness to the Moslem world or to encourage Christians to escape the impending pogrom?
That last question was posed by a Catholic priest, Father Douglas in Baghdad, who urged western countries to open their doors to Iraqi refugees.
This became a main theme for the programme. The underlying question became should the world look on with equanimity as Christians leave the cradle of Christianity in their droves? In the Lebanon, which was effectively established as a Christian state to protect the Maronite Christian community in the aftermath of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, even moderate Moslems within the Druze community are saying that if the Christians leave then moderate Islam is doomed. There and in Syria both Christians and Moslems repeatedly harked back to a period when “Christians loved Moslems and Moslems loved Christians”.
This is beginning to take shape as the ‘Theory of Unintended Consequences’. What will happen next? How will it develop? Faced with such dilemmas where no one seems to be in control, all we can do is to remember that God is in control and to focus on our responsibility to pray into these situations.
The early Christians were identified as a people who loved one another. Indeed so important is the concept that Christ explicitly commands us to ‘love one another and our neighbour as ourselves’. Francis Schaeffer, the Bible scholar described love as ‘the mark of a Christian’.
The final part of the programme took us back to the Monastery of St Mathew above the historic Plain of Nineveh and on the front line of the so called Islamic State Caliphate. Here Christian families who have lost all their material possessions, shelter in the comparative safety of the monastery precincts and we hear from 13 year old Nadine, one of the children caught up in the turmoil. It is worth repeating what she said,
“The Christian religion is about love and peace.
I feel very sad because the devil has taken Islamic State over.
I will pray to God to enlighten their minds.
Whatever happens, we will not give up our religion.
We will not abandon Christianity, never.”
Christ says love your enemies.
Please pray for the Christians of the Middle East.