Yesterday morning as I was getting a blood transfusion (a ritual I have go through almost weekly now, in my continuing battle with leukemia), I happened upon a recent copy of National Geographic. Besides the surprising fact that it was less than two months old (I once found a copy in the same cancer clinic that dated back to 1975), I was also intrigued to find that it featured a report on the plight facing Christians in the Middle East entitled The Forgotten Faithful.
I have read better articles on the subject, I have to admit. I have also read worse. But any coverage that Christians in this region can receive is welcome, especially from a publication of this calibre.
What I found most unsettling in this article was the interview that the author did with a Moronite Christian in Beirut named Milad. As the author admits, “Maronite Christians are not usually thought of as candidates for sainthood.” Their historical propensity to seek to resolve issues through violence is unfortunate at best.
Milad, according to the author, is a genial, middle-aged tile contractor who serves as a foot soldier in the Lebanese Forces (LF), a powerful Maronite political party.
From the balcony of his bullet-riddled fifth-floor apartment in east Beirut, Milad has a clear shot at the sprawling Shiite neighborhoods that lie just beyond a busy thoroughfare marking the "red line" between Christian territory and that of the Shiite militias fighting for Hezbollah and its ally, Amal. "It's kind of like living in a shooting gallery," he says, laughing.
Quite apart from whether it is appropriate for Christians to serve in the military (which I have no personal problem with), the way in which Milad and his colleagues have gone about “defending the faith” is contrary to scriptural teaching. Jesus’ words on non-violence are specifically written in the context of suffering because one is a follower of His.
I sympathize with Milad’s situation. But I think it was this paragraph that made me feel so very sad for the cause of Christ.
Milad's neighborhood, Ain al-Rumaneh, is a tough place, full of bullet-pocked apartment buildings and small shops. Every flat surface, it seems, is branded with the symbol of the Lebanese Forces, a cross with its base sliced off at an angle, like a sword. After recent clashes with Shiites, Milad and his buddies raised a 15-foot wooden cross on the sidewalk and plastered a plywood wall behind it with huge posters of Jesus. Then they installed floodlights so that Hezbollah fighters across the road would get the following message 24 hours a day: "Ain al-Rumaneh is Christian. Keep the hell out."
Please pray for the Christians of the Middle East. Their plight is not unique in that the temptation to resort to violence is not uncommon for Christians in other parts of the world as well. Pray that the Prince of Peace will reign in their hearts and that they will resist their oppressor through actively refusing to resort to the same tactics of force and intimidation as their persecutors practice, declaring through their word and actions that they will not stoop to such levels of inhumanity. Instead pray that they will put their trust in God. After, victory is not something that a Christian wins; it is something he receives from God.
I would invite you to write a specific prayer for the Christians of the Middle East and post it on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.