This article was originally published in Edition (9) of Prayer Magazine,  Jan-Mar 2007.

I would like to begin this month with a quote from Issue 7 article on ‘Islam in crisis’.

“Muslim fundamentalism has been allowed to grow and increase in influence from within Islam itself over the last 20 to 30 years.  The corruption of the wealthy Gulf States and the support of the West for the State of Israel have been major factors stimulating its growth.  It would be fair to say that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are seen by many Muslims as 21st Century Crusades of the ‘Christian West’ against Muslim nations”.

Sadly, yet again, we have seen this enacted out in front of our eyes in Lebanon.

Lebanon in the only Arab nation which has official religious freedom, including governmental recognition of citizen’s right to change their religion.  It is also unique politically as it is a democracy, but strangely the President must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliamentary speaker a Shi’ite Muslim.  Citizens tend to vote down ethnic and religious divisions.  The present governing coalition represents most of the Christian, Druze and Sunni groups while the opposition represent the rest, but notably the predominantly Shi’ite Hezbollah.

Lebanon has a massive national debt much of this was taken to finance major infrastructure development following the civil war of 1975 to 1991.  The situation of Palestinian refugees within Lebanon remains a concern as their number is growing rapidly and yet the area in which they are obliged to live remains constant. There are now over 400,000 Palestinians refugees registered with the UN in 12 officially recognised camps that were established in 1948 to house 100,000 people. They have limited legal status within Lebanon, including no rights to own property. They are trapped in the camps, and living in an environment which is a hotbed for unrest, unemployment and the development of extreme political and religious views.

There has been no official census since 1932, but at independence from France in 1943 the Christian community was about 60%.  Today it is estimated to be 30% due to a much higher birth rate in the Muslim communities and emigration of Christians to the West.  The largest Christian community is the Maronites, who recognize the authority of the Pope. Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Copts, Melkites and Assyrians (Nestorians) are also found.  There are several protestant denominations but the number of evangelical Christians is very small.  Lebanon still is a very divided country which is largely a legacy of the civil war (1975-1991) that remains as an unhealed scar on the history of the nation.

In the midst of this who can we pray as God desires?  How can we see as God sees? How can we feel the heart beat of God?

Suffering, pain, political instability and uncertainly over the future often results in a questioning of religion and long held values, especially among the young, and in the light of the recent Hezbollah attacks on Israel and the devastating retaliation from that Nation, Prayer is needed more than ever for this Nation.

  • Pray for a massive turning of Shi’ites to Christ and a reproducing church to be planted in their midst.
  • Pray for an expansion of the Kingdom among all religious communities affected by the war.
  • Praise God for the growth of the Church amongst the Druze and the Jews.

The infrastructure of Lebanon has been devastated in a massive way by this war.

  • Pray for the rebuilding of the nation and that the world and the church will respond in an appropriate way.
  • Pray that more Lebanese Christians will find ways to minister amongst the non-Christian communities.
  • Praise God that we have an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God and the values of the Kingdom in Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

In March 2003 the Lebanese authorities changed the religious visa requirements and since then many expatriate Christians have been forced to leave the country.  A missionary was murdered in Tyre in 2005 which has also profoundly affected attitudes.  (I will check the details for you)

  • Pray for the effectiveness of missionary activity and the safety of overseas personnel.
  • Pray for a renewed sense of hope across the Christian community in spite of the prevailing uncertainties.
  • Praise God for the unique freedom which exists in Lebanon and Israel.

The position the UK has taken in supporting the invasion of Lebanon by Israel will have major consequences in the whole Muslim world as it represents a major shift in policy.

  • Pray for British Muslims who are deeply offended by what has happened.
  • Pray for a resolution of the ‘Palestinian Problem’.
  • Praise God for the opportunity we have to share the love of God with our Muslim neighbours.

 

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