Attacks on Middle East Christians condemned
Middle East ― Church leaders are condemning Saturday's deadly violence at a church in Egypt which killed at least 21 people.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on Christians in the Middle East and Africa. On December 30, at least four homes of Christians in Baghdad were bombed, killing at least two people and injuring 13 others.
The violence is forcing many Christians to rethink their future in the area, while many others have given up and are leaving.
SAT-7, a Christian satellite television service to the Middle East and North Africa, is in the thick of it. David Harder says, "We are really mobilizing our efforts to not only ask for prayers for peace, and prayers for the victims' families, and for those who are suffering currently in hospitals, but also trying to get out the message of being a good neighbor."
Their message is echoed by Pope Benedict, who is encouraging believers to persevere in a non-violent manner. He also called for a commitment to peace in their relations with their neighbors.
However, Harder says, "Emotions are very raw. My brother was in the largest Protestant church Sunday night, and during the service, when there were prayers for the government to have wisdom in this situation and do the right thing, somebody stood up and was very upset and angry about that. It was certainly not in the spirit of the meeting and trying to pray for peace."
The bombings have opened a vein of anger and fear for Christians, particularly those in Egypt. There's good reason for that. "This Friday will be the Eastern Christmas. It happens on January 7," Harder explains. "Most Protestants in Egypt also use the Eastern calendar and celebrate this Christmas. So with this attack that just happened, they're very concerned that there might be more attacks."
The tension has the SAT-7 team pushing the message of peace as hard as they dare. "We are broadcasting live shows each day this week where the topic will be about what has happened at these bombings and how people can respond, how Christians should respond. We are broadcasting Scriptures."
In a live show there's a chance for dialogue and discussion, a chance to release tension, and perhaps a safe place to grieve.
Harder says their message often runs counter to the culture. "It's revenge; it's ‘eye for an eye;' it's that sort of thing." But there's hope, too. "As Christians, we're told to ‘turn the other cheek' and to love our enemies. These are very hard things. Really, only the Holy Spirit can enable people to do that."
When Christians are a part of the solution, it sends a strong witness that Jesus is real. "We have that kind of compassionate, loving God. We hope that in our broadcasts this week, the many pastors and priests who will be speaking this week will hope that this kind of love and compassion will be manifest so people will know the good news of Jesus."
Continue to pray with the team as they work this week to spread the message of the peace of Christ. Pray for open hearts, for safety, and for wisdom for the hosts as they respond to the pain of a community.