Nour Botros, guest blogger and host of 'Just For You - Syria.' (Image courtesy SAT-7)
Syria (MNN) -- As the drums of war grow louder, Syrians are drawing near to Christ.
The ball is now in the U.N.'s court, so to say, following Britain's official call for military action against Syria. Western nations including the U.S., U.K., and France are pushing for a military reprimand to Syria's use of chemical warfare against its own people.
"We've always said we want the U.N. Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria," said a statement from U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron's office. "Today we are giving its permanent members the opportunity to do that."
On the opposite side of the table, Syria and its allies claim innocence.
"We are not wrongdoers," Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, told reporters early yesterday afternoon. "We are a peaceful nation seeking stability. The Syria government is totally innocent of these accusations."
Russia and Iran, Syria's strongest allies, insist no action should be taken until U.N. officials have finished their inspection in Damascus and announce their findings.
As posturing and a "war of words" continues on the international stage, Syrians on the ground are desperate for hope.
According to SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, people in the key Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs only get four hours of electricity a day.
They're connecting their televisions to generators to watch a SAT-7 ARABIC program called Just for You - Syria. Hosted by native Syrian believer Nour Botros, the show is broadcast from Lebanon every Tuesday.
"They are making the effort to watch us under the wire and with many dangers," says Botros in a recent SAT-7 blog. "To have a group watching and praying like that: I think that is really incredible."
Just for You - Syria ministers to the people of Syria through worship and prayer, introducing the hope of Jesus Christ to many. A recent highlight occurred when a viewer named Rami* asked Botros to pray on the air for his kidnapped family member.
Kidnappings have been one of the most distressing aspects of the Syrian conflict for families. Too many families have suffered the agony of not knowing the fate of their relatives, fearing the worst.
But not all kidnappings end tragically. During several episodes, Botros prayed for Rami’s missing family member. Viewers anxiously awaited news of the outcome until finally he was freed.
Rami’s cousin said that although the family had grown distant from God, the trial they experienced with the kidnapping drew them closer together and closer to Him.
A Syrian living in Egypt testified that as she saw this answer to prayer play out on television, it restored her dwindling hope for Syria.
Please join SAT-7 in prayer for all those affected by the Syrian conflict. Pray that the families of those kidnapped will be reunited with their loved ones soon. Pray that the Gospel brings hope and strength to Syrians.
Want to make a difference? Click here! Your gift of $10 supports 10 viewers for a year.
Hezbollah imagery. (Cover photo by Israeli Defense Forces. Story photo by Paul Keller)
Lebanon (MNN) -- Last Friday's double bombing in Lebanon targeted mosques.
According to officials, it's an escalation believed to be connected to the Syrian war, and it has compounded fears of increasing sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite groups in Lebanon.
Today's news revealed that Syria is believed to be behind the most recent attacks, perhaps because some Sunni Muslim clerics have been fiercely opposed to the Syrian regime. In recent months, extremist Sunni groups have sent troops to Syria to fight on behalf of the rebels.
Historically, relations between Lebanon and Syria have been strained, especially with the 29-year Syrian Occupation of Lebanon (from 1976 to 2005). Syria has only recently officially recognized Lebanon's sovereignty. If Lebanon goes to pieces, it is likely that extremist Shiite group Hezbollah (strong supporters of the Syrian government) will take increasing control with support from Iran. Hezbollah has also been sending some of its own fighters to Syria to fight against rebel forces.
With tensions growing, some people have been opting to fight. As a result, Beirut, along with several other Lebanese cities, has been experiencing some of the worst street fighting and sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 17-year civil war.
One of the cities that has experienced conflict has been Sidon, home to Kids Alive's New Horizons center. "I think it's fair to say that among a lot of Lebanese, there is a lot of fear, there is a lot of uncertainty, and there is a lot of tension in the country," says Matt Parker, Vice-President of Operations for Kids Alive International. "The other situation, of course, is that there have been so many refugees that have come across the border from Syria into Lebanon."
Parker goes on to explain: "We have two children's homes. We have a school. We have two Care Center projects working with over 100 children. So, we've been monitoring the situation very carefully." Their program has been running now for 65 years in Lebanon. That's a lot of volatile history, but Parker notes that God has been faithful every time.
Kids Alive provides care to more than 150 children in Lebanon every year. One of their goals is to develop their work with refugees and other vulnerable children over the coming year. This year, with the trouble in Sidon, they had to close the Care Center early. Parker says that means it's vital that they reopen on time because the "children that we work with in this Care Center come from very difficult situations. They really would have no opportunity to get an education without our support."
Currently, Kids Alive provides an education, nutritious meals, medical care, and the love of Christ to more than 145 children in Lebanon. This year, they hope to add 35 children to their Homes and Care Centers. That's the largest number they've ever undertaken in one year, but the situation in Lebanon has created complications. "We're supporting a number of refugee children in a school and our residential programs. We're exploring what more we can do in that particular area."
Typically, they provide education, health care, vocational training, assistance with developing micro-enterprise activities, and the love of Christ. Without the intervention of Kids Alive, these kids would have no future, says Parker. "Instead, they'd be begging on the streets, or they'd be in child labor or early marriages. So we're determined to re-open the Center as normal within the next few weeks."
For the women of the community, vocational training workshops will be set up where students will be taught sewing and jewelry making. The products from these will be sold in the markets in Beirut, a portion of the profits returning back to the project (so that it becomes self-sustaining) as well as the women and their families.
A medical clinic is also being established to meet the needs of these communities. Nurses will provide basic care as well as health education and advice, and they will be supported by a doctor and dentist who will perform surgeries on a regular basis.
It's clear to see that the hope provided by Kids Alive through New Horizons is critical. Among all the messages Kids Alive sends, this one is the clearest amidst the turmoil: "They have a God who loves them and they can rely on Him."
For the kids growing up in war zones, it's a way to preserve any childhood they have left. "Be praying for children in Lebanon who are growing up in such a turbulent, difficult time. Pray that the situation in the country would calm down. Pray for the situation in the entire region and for peace."
(Image courtesy U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons)
Iraq (MNN) -- Today it seems most of the Middle East is in crisis mode: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran.
Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA adds one more to the list.
"Iraq is not getting much attention, but we need to keep the spotlight there," he states.
A series of bombings in the capital city of Baghdad yesterday killed at least 70 people and wounded far more. It's the latest in a wave of turmoil that's engulfed the nation since 2013 started.
Over 4,000 civilians have been killed and 10,000 wounded since the year began, the BBC states in a recent article. July saw the greatest number of Iraqi causalities since 2008.
"The total number of Iraqis killed during July was 1,057 and 2,326 wounded in acts of terrorism," Dykstra states. "That is a new record, and not obviously good news for the people of Iraq and not good news for Christians who've lived in Iraq."
Rising sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims is to blame. Sunni militants say they're being ostracized by Iraq's Shi'ite government, which is holding the largest anti-insurgent campaign since 2011.
Conflict in Syria only serves to fan the flames.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Iraq's al-Qaeda branch, has joined rebels in the quest to overthrow Syrian President Assad. In turn, Assad is backed by Hezbollah--one of the region's largest terror organizations, and Iran, both of which are affiliated with Shi'ite Islam.
According to Dykstra, Iraqi Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place.
"That seems to be almost 'par for the course' in the Middle East nowadays," he says, explaining that Christians are "not only victims of the random violence, but they're also specifically targeted by Muslim extremists.
"You have the Sunnis and Shi'ites…and they have their backers. But the Christians have nobody."
Open Doors is combatting the loneliness and anxiety experienced by many Iraqi Christians. Through micro-loans, translation projects, and the distribution of Christian literature and Scripture, they're encouraging and supporting the Persecuted Church in this volatile nation.
Click here to see how you can help.
"The Christians in Iraq are very discouraged and obviously need our support and our prayers," Dykstra states.
One of the biggest needs among Iraqi believers, he adds, is trauma counseling.
"There's a whole generation of kids who are now young adults, who've been brought up in [these] terrible wars and persecution," says Dykstra.
See where Iraq lands on the Open Doors World Watch List.
"There are only about 330,000 Christians left in Iraq," Dykstra says. "10 years ago, over a million Christians.
"We really need to put emphasis on reaching out to them, especially in prayer."
Pray for Open Doors trauma counselors working with children and families affected by persecution. Pray for encouragement and healing for war-weary Christians in Iraq.
Pray "that they get the healing they need, and I'm talking about healing not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually," requests Dykstra.
(Image courtesy Moody/Wycliffe Bible Translators)
International (WYC) -- Do you like games? If so, we have a new adventure to tell you about.
Since their early days, Wycliffe Bible Translators has partnered with Moody Radio in Chicago. Recently that partnership has grown in new ways, with Moody featuring Wycliffe projects in Peru and Panama on-air as part of their fall 2009 mission campaign and supporting Wycliffe's first-ever online game in 2012.
This fall, Wycliffe is partnering with Moody for their Global Trek online experience, which runs August 26-September 15. Game participants will dig deeply into God's Word, while learning more about Moody's global impact and their partnership with Wycliffe.
By visiting exciting virtual destinations around the world and answering questions along the way, players earn points toward a number of great prizes, including a trip for 2 to Moody's Founder's Week conference in Chicago, a trip with Moody Radio to Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, a trip with Moody to Ghana, and a trip to a Wycliffe ministry site in Guatemala.*
To join in the fun, go to https://www.moodyglobaltrek.com/
• Pray for word to spread about The Global Trek, and that many people will register to play.
• Ask God to use this experience to call new audiences into partnership with Wycliffe and Moody.
• Also pray that God would continue to build the relationship between Wycliffe and Moody Radio.