February 7, 2012

When Light Pierces Darkness

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“When light pierces darkness, darkness always pushes back.”
Dr. Carl Moeller, President, Open Doors USA

Over the weekend, the United Nations failed to vote for the plan that would have led to replacing Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.  Despite the drafting and consensus of the Arab League countries, and of the West, when the vote came, both Russia and China voted “no.”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote, a “travesty.”  The United States representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, called the vote “disgusting.”  One Middle East diplomat said the failed vote was as much as a “license to kill” for al-Assad.  Reports of attacks by al-Assad’s government the night before the vote seemed to signal his resolve.  Yesterday, a BBC reporter confirmed the mortar shell attacks had resumed.  Japan Today reports another 79 people were killed yesterday.  In the 11 months since uprisings began – back when we called these things the Arab Spring, for the hope we brought – Syria’s government has killed 5,000 of its own citizens (and as many as 2,000 soldiers have died).  That Arab Spring is indeed a long, cold winter in Syria.

Yesterday, the United States closed its embassy in Syria and brought the ambassador and staff home.  The news reports such an action as “serious” in diplomatic circles.  Where do we go from here?  What will it take to crack the hardened heart of al-Assad?  How many times have we seen similar events and the challenge is always the same: to isolate or to engage?  

Russia has been the central player in this catastrophe.  They have their only Mediterranean naval access in Syria, where Russia maintains a naval base.  And they are the principal arms suppliers to Damascus.  As to China, some argue they don’t see a forced regime change as a long term solution.  And today, they have the instability in Egypt and Libya to cite as evidence.  Others suggest China is just “flexing” its power.

Who is this Syrian president?  Bashar al-Assad was born in 1965; he is 46 years old.  He has been president of Syria since 2000, having coming to power after his father’s 27-year dictatorship.  He and his wife, Asma, have three children, ages 7, 9 and 10.  He is an Alawite Muslim, which is Muslim minority in the country but the group who has wielded power for decades.

Meanwhile, in Sudan, the atrocities continue … The northern government dropped eight bombs on the Heiban Bible College last week, virtually destroying two buildings on the campus.  This is a continuation of the purge in the Nuba Mountains and South Kordofan regions that has left 310,000 displaced.  And Samaritan’s Purse reports that the Yida Refugee Camp just across the border in South Sudan now has a population of 28,500.

The Heiban Bible College is a pastor training school built by the Samaritan’s Purse, who has built hundreds of churches in the area in the last decade.  They report that four churches have been destroyed by the northern government military in the last six months, including this one – the Angolo Church, about three weeks ago.

Ambassador Susan Rice condemned the Heiban Bible College attack noting it was particularly horrific that the northern military picked the first day of school for the attack – a time when the school was full of students, teachers and guests.  It’s a miracle that no one was hurt.

There are certainly differences between the atrocities in Syria and in Sudan.  In the former, the parties are a minority government fighting off all rebels.  In the latter, the parties are a majority government determined to purge the landscape of people from other religions and those who don’t support the northern Sudanese regime.  Taken together, it’s about a threat to power – a threat to the status quo.  In that “light”, the stories read like the Gospel, as the Pharisees saw the threat to their power.  The threat that Light always causes in the darkness.

Praying today for :

  • Killing to stop in Syria and in Sudan.
  • Refuge to be provided for all the displaced persons.
  • Healing for those victimized by the fighting.
  • Comfort for those grieving, worrying, and anxious.
  • Wisdom for the world’s leaders involved in “next steps” discussions.
  • Truth of God’s Word to penetrate hearts and minds.
  • Encouragement and strength for believers.
  • Jesus accepted as Savior by non-believers.
Praying for Syria’s President al-Assad and Sudan’s President al-Bashir; that they will turn from the path they are on, come to know Jesus as their personal Savior, and bring about peace and prosperity in their countries through the Light of the World.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12 NIV

SOURCES:  Biblos, Washington Post, The Hill, Wikipedia, BBC, Japan Today, Brookings Institute,
Samaritan’s Purse

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