FROM R.K.’s CORNER
With the media-blitz covering the heightened conflict between the Syrian regime and the United States government in face of Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people, I have pondered how to present this complex issue from the perspective of God’s Kingdom to our friends and supporters. I knew that this needed the input from an insider’s perspective to help us discern the news behind the news.
I contacted a longstanding friend and partner, Benny Hashem, whom Steve and I have known for nearly two decades. I offered him to address in this issue the situation in Syria from the paradigm of being an Arab who has come to faith in Jesus Christ, a Minister of the Gospel to the nations of the Middle East, a man serving the refugees who are entering the US from those war-torn nations, and a trainer of American believers on how to effectively get involved in the lives of these traumatized new immigrants. Hashem’s message to the church is simply: You do not need to go to the unreached nations of the world, the nations have come to you, so — serve the nations in your neighborhood!!
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MAY YOUR KINGDOM COME … IN SYRIA!
BY BENNY HASHEM
“…thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – that is our declaration when we pray the Lord’s prayer. Today in the ancient country of Syria, where no one can count the statistics accurately regarding population, tribe or religious group, there is little that demonstrates the fulfillment of that prayer. The land has spiraled down into disarray and chaos.
Factions once thought to be the rebels have now joined forces with the government in fighting the multinational terror organization, Al Qaeda. New rebel forces have emerged in opposition to the government. More than 100,000 people have been killed and several million displaced from the caldron of confusion which now permeates the once unimportant, non-oil producing nation.
What is Really Going on in Syria?
Up until the mid-1960ties, Syria enjoyed the presence of Western missionaries and the Gospel was preached openly without much opposition. That changed in late 1967, when the Syrian government uncovered an alleged ring of “spies” working as missionaries who were accused of broadcasting messages to Israel from the pulpit. The missionaries involved in the incident were hung after the Syrian government found them guilty on charges of espionage. The remaining missionaries were arrested and expelled, and all missionary visas cancelled. Since then, Syria has been added to the list of “creative access” countries, i.e. countries which deny access to foreign Gospel workers.
Directly following the shutdown of western missionary activities, the national Syrian evangelical church rose up and embraced their mandate to spread the Gospel, and since then, the national believers have been busy working within their own national boundaries. The evangelical believers gained significant success even under Hafez Al Assad’s government (1971-2000), so this time period is referred to as the “Golden Years of Syria”.
After the missionary incident, tragically, all the churches became suspect of espionage, causing the secret police to visit them on a regular basis and question the leadership on the Christian activities among the believers.
This has not fared well for the Christian community in the present conflict, as the insurgent faction of Al Qaeda are now targeting these Christian leaders for execution, claiming they are collaborators with the Syrian National Government. In fact, all Christian believers, who up till now have enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence in Syria as underscored by their sheer number, are being earmarked for extermination by the radical Al Qaeda.
As with any predominantly Muslim country, proselytizing of Muslims to Christianity is prohibited . According to one mission network focusing on Muslim unreached people groups, Syria has at least five unreached people groups within its borders.
This Civil War has led to the diaspora, not only of Muslims, but Christians into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and several other countries. These camps where refugees now reside have become havens for lawlessness and crime. Despite the best efforts of the United Nations, lack of food, water, blankets and medicine are among only a few of the problems suffered by the refugee population.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works with nations worldwide to resettle the victims fleeing from wars, famine and natural disaster.
There are currently four resettlement agencies working in the United States to help resettle these victims. Of the refugees that end up in the United States, more than 40% have been beaten, raped or tortured. The result is that a large number of the refugee population suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The demographics of these refugees are as varied as the conflicts they come from. In some cases they are the Christians who have been caught in the conflict. In other cases they are the Muslims who have chosen not to participate in the fighting which oftentimes are sectarian conflicts — Sunni vs Shia Muslims. In yet other cases, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, they are the nationals who have sided with, translated for, or aided US troops.
Sadly, almost all have lost immediate family in the conflict. They have given up everything — land, homes, businesses, and loved ones — to avoid fighting. They are the “good guys” and have been driven out of their homes by the “bad guys”.
Once cleared by Homeland Security to enter the United States, these refugees are placed in communities that have sufficient resources to help them resettle. Unfortunately, there are far more families than case workers in most of the resettlement agencies and this leaves a huge gulf between the refugee families and the communities into which they are attempting to resettle. In many cases, people are put together with other families from the same country, which causes them to remain isolated from the American society with little interaction with Americans. Since many of the women continue to cover themselves with their traditional garbs, they are looked upon with disdain by people in their new communities, causing these victims to be further secluded and trapped in their own sub-culture.
Men with Arab names are routinely passed over in the job market, due to fear of them. The little dignity and hope the refugees had when they arrived in the “land of the free and home of the brave” is slowly diminished.
God in His infinite wisdom saw that the church in the West was unable to penetrate these closed and restricted access countries with the Gospel so He planned to bring the unreached nations to the West. Here, we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Here it is illegal to kill converts. We have a well-informed, well-resourced church to draw from to reach the nations that the Lord has brought into our very neighborhoods! WHERE IS THE CHURCH — the glorious Bride of the resurrected Christ? Where is the splendor and majesty of the Ambassadors of Christ? Where are the believers in the marketplace who reach out with open hearts to the alien in the land with love, and include them in their lives?
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick , and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’.”
is a Non-Profit Organization that works among the world’s refugees and underprivileged assisting in community development and relief aid.
Founded in 1998, Liaison International works in 36 countries throughout Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and 30 Cities in the United States.
Working among the diaspora communities of the world, Liaison International trains individuals and organization to engage peoples from the perspective of cultural sensitivity. We focus on meeting needs of displaced and persecuted peoples and help rebuild lives ravaged by war, famine, oppression and natural disaster.
As the Refugee Community grows in the United States, Liaison International partners with resettlement organizations in helping train mentors, ESL teachers and provides a community of “friends” for the refugees who are often isolated by fear and trauma. More than 40% of all refugees immigrating to the US have been the victims of violent crimes and suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The Liaison International Center for Intercultural Studies located in Selma, TX was developed to inform, mobilize and train workers who will make real differences in the lives of those they encounter.
Liaison Middle East Ministries International dba Liaison International Center for Intercultural Studies