Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Breathe

God,

What do you pray for when nothing is happening?

When all that is happening is getting worse.

The nation is suffering while locked down entire.

The hospital cots trade the dead for the sick.

But with everything shuttered the other pain rises.

If no one can work, then fewer can eat.

In the north and the south some are driven to protest.

The lockdown extended, with no hope in sight.

Meanwhile the nurses are brought to exhaustion.

When doctors fall ill, demands surge for the rest.

God, there is no rest.

But yet, there is boredom.

Perhaps rather—paralysis.

What is there to do, if naught can be done?

The caretaker prime minister made his best effort.

He went to the head of each ruling sect.

He sought to encourage the forming of government.

Dismissed as “utopian,” no breakthrough was made.

Might outsider stimuli shake up the system?

A new US president takes up the helm.

And a Switzerland inquiry hits central bank leadership,

While Syrian linkage is probed at the port.

At least before long the vaccines will be coming.

The World Bank funding will help with supply.

God, please ensure equitable distribution.

Many voice fears nepotism will reign.

So in the pause, God, let Lebanon pray.

Against the spirit of corruption. Against the spirit of defeat.

For renewal of the nation. For renewal of the heart.

Breathe into Lebanon hope, love, and mercy.

Blow winds of justice, divide wheat from chaff.

Give an awareness that all are united.

COVID is killing regardless of sect.

Both Christian and Muslim are locked in their houses.

The church and the mosque—and the bar—all are closed.

Soon things will open.

Life must go on.

Help Lebanon find the life that is truly life.

Eternal, good, and giving.

Redemptive, and of you.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Solomon and Kipling

God,

How do you pray for those who accuse each other of lying and cheating? One of them must be right.

Maybe both?

These are the leaders you have raised up for Lebanon.

These are the leaders who raised up themselves.

God, in the first, we lift them ourselves. We ask that you bless them and give them success.

Join them together in all solidarity. Grant them discernment to chart the best course.

Knit the nation united and give it a government.

The people will perish if no vision found.

And God, in the second, you curse not ambition. You honor the servants who risk and who lead.

But selfish ambition you toss on the dung heap. Mix justice with mercy; expose every wrong.

God, they are many.

They may not all be Lebanon’s. They may not all be clear.

A shepherd was snagged on the border with Israel. Accused as a spy, does he just do his job?

“Violate not our borders,” shouts out from the south.

Drowned out by the din of their jets overhead.

And even as aid finds the poor of the nation, the banks make a profit off foreign exchange.

A vaccine is coming to combat Corona.

But only once lawsuits get pushed to the state.

Yet the slightest of hope emerges from Syria. A plane from Aleppo arrived in Beirut.

Dozens of passengers came for some reason. Let trade and exchange increase week-by-week.

But even now wrong is attached to Damascus. An explosive report links regime to the blast.

Meanwhile the people sit home under lockdown. Yet COVID is filling each hospital bed.

God, what to do?

One of the accusing hurled the insight of Solomon.

“Wisdom dwells not in the soul sold to sin.”

But he also took refuge in the poem of Kipling.

“Keep your virtue with crowds; be authentic with kings.”

God, of the first, guard the hearts of these servants.

Let your scriptures inspire and reproach and transform.

And God, of the second, discernment diffuses. It found in the sages and artists and scribes.

The politicians?

Maybe.

It can be, God.

If one is right, then vindicate.

If both are wrong, rebuke.

But raise up the leaders who seek out your wisdom.

For the sake of the nation, spur zeal in the good.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Christianity Today Published Articles Religious Freedom

No Pandemic Pause in Persecution, Says Poland Ministerial

Image: Ralph Alswang / US State Department
The podium at last year’s religious freedom ministerial stage in DC. This year’s IRF conference was virtually hosted by Poland.

The cause of international religious freedom has gone more international.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the third Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief was hosted this week outside the United States for the first time—in Poland.

Next year it will take place in Brazil.

Launched in 2018 by the US State Department, the ministerial brings together the world’s top diplomats to ensure religious freedom remains an integral focus of international foreign policy.

The focus is necessary: 80 percent of the world’s population lives in nations that restrict religious freedom, according to the Pew Research Center.

And the pandemic has only increased persecution.

“Malign actors have tried to use COVID-19 to restrict religious freedom,” said Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

“The need to expand religious freedoms and protect religious minorities has become a global priority.”

The novel coronavirus took center stage at the two-day conference, hosted virtually by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom drew about 1,000 delegates to Washington. This year’s event was hosted online by Poland due to the pandemic.

Gayle Manchin, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said restrictions on religion began as early as March. She cited several examples…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on November 18, 2020. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: On Hold

God,

Help Lebanon in the waiting. May it be a time of rest.

For many it is forced. The government put over 100 towns and villages in lockdown. One week entire, with nowhere to go.

And likely much more, without a government. Politicians spread blame when the French effort failed. It might get revived, but no signs are pending.

Some say Lebanon is on pause until American elections. Some say the country has no time to lose.

The Central Bank said that the worst is behind it. But the dollar exchange has renewed its fall.

Life continues, God. So does the suffering of many.

But could hope be pending? Might there be a line, finally drawn in the sand?

The maritime border is up for discussion. Lebanon and Israel will meet to divide.

A framework agreement is already decided. Each one their right to the natural gas.

Is there enough to revive the economy? Will it take too much time to prevent the collapse?

And will it be fair?

God, in this time of waiting, lead Lebanon to pray.

For transparent arrangements. For equitable share.

For warming relations. For a peace that is just.

And let this peace come also between the parties. Let them fight for their cause in support of the whole.

For national consensus. For strong institutions.

For a soon government. For thorough reform.

And to the degree necessary, American clarity. Set Lebanon’s path upon sovereign decision. Yet so much of the world awaits what will be.

It is not all America’s power of decision. Heal the earth of Corona, paralysis, fear.

For slowing its spread. For needed supplies.

For developed vaccines. For this plague to pass.

In all of these, God, there is little most can do but wait.

And trust.

And rest.

God, Lebanon needs it. Thank you for this pause.

If only on hold, then the pressure is building. Until resolution, the tension stays tight.

But there is life beyond lockdown. Play beyond politics. Love beyond lucre.

There is family. There is nature. There is you.

Things far more essential. Things far more secure.

Strengthen the nation to resume its struggle. Let no one grow weary in doing the right.

But now, give a sabbath.

Hold Lebanon close.

Amen.


To receive Lebanon Prayer by WhatsApp, please click this link to join the closed comments group.

Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.


Sometimes prayer can generate more prayer. While mine is for general principles, you may have very specific hopes for Lebanon. You are welcome to post these here as comments, that others might pray with you as you place your desires before God.

If you wish to share your own prayer, please adhere to the following guidelines:

1) The sincerest prayers are before God alone. Please consult with God before posting anything.

2) If a prayer of hope, strive to express a collective encouragement.

3) If a prayer of lament, strive to express a collective grief.

4) If a prayer of anger, refrain from criticizing specific people, parties, sects, or nations. While it may be appropriate, save these for your prayers alone before God.

5) In every prayer, do your best to include a blessing.

I will do my best to moderate accordingly. Thank you for praying for Lebanon and her people.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic

Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need.

As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching on eschatology in lockdown.

“The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,” he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.

“We cannot be dogmatic, but at the very least [these] distresses have resemblance to much more severe events in the future time of tribulation.”

Diligently studying to incorporate aspects of all theological systems, Shehadeh aimed to keep the Cross central within a literal hermeneutic.

“The more we study prophecy,” he said, “the more we can see things in our world that others cannot, like a physician who knows immediately how to treat a wound.”

COVID-19 has left many bleeding.

Shehadeh previously wrote a four-volume commentary on biblical prophecy…

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on June 15, 2020. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Trapped in Lebanon, Sudanese Students Find Refuge at Seminary

Image courtesy ABTS

While Liberty University came under criticism for allowing students the option to stay on campus during the coronavirus outbreak, many other schools were also faced with a dilemma concerning the 1.1 million students who came from abroad.

According to a Quartz survey of 36 universities who host a third of the United States’ international students, 26 told those students to leave campus.

Penn State gave three days notice. Harvard gave five. Duke, among others, offered emergency financial aid to help international students return home. Princeton allowed their residency to continue—until the end of the semester.

But Sudanese students at Lebanon’s Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) did not have a choice—even with tickets in hand.

Lebanon was one of the first nations to implement COVID-19 restrictions. Its first case was recorded on February 21, and by March 9 schools were shut down.

Four days later, at a regularly scheduled seminary picnic, Bassem Melki prepared to break the news.

“It was a joyous atmosphere,” said the ABTS dean of students, “but I had sadness in my heart because I knew what I had to say.”

Founded in 1960 and located in the mountains overlooking Beirut, the seminary…

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on June 10, 2020. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Cleared of Landmines for Easter, Jesus’ Baptism Site Now Closed by COVID-19

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on April 17, 2020.

For over 50 years, Jesus’ baptismal site was a casualty of war.

Now, it is a casualty of the new coronavirus.

Last week in time for Easter, the UK-based demining specialist HALO Trust group exploded in chain reaction the final 500 landmines at Israel’s Qasr al-Yahud monastery complex.

“We got the churches together, all eight different denominations, and then we got the Israelis and the Palestinians,” HALO Trust CEO James Cowan told the BBC.

“So all three major faiths, and we looked at how we could do this.”

Located six miles east of Jericho on the Jordan River, “Bethany beyond the Jordan” in 1968 was placed by Israel under military jurisdiction following the Six Day War. Fearing terrorist infiltration across the shallow riverbed, the army laid over 6,000 landmines and booby-trapped the churches.

Israel declared peace with Jordan in 1995, but the area remained closed.

In 2011, it was partially reopened, allowing access along one narrow path between the Jordan River and the Greek Orthodox St. John the Baptist Monastery.

And in 2016, HALO Trust, which works in 27 nations around the world, announced…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Arab Christians Have Lost Easter Before. Here’s What They Learned.

Losing Easter Churches
House of St Ananias, Damascus

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on April 3, 2020.

Christians around the world are about to lose their usual Easter celebration—the highlight of most congregations’ annual life together.

Yes, there will be a livestream. Their pastor will likely call them. They may even chat on Zoom with friends and family.

But it will be different. The community of believers has been sundered by the new coronavirus. And threatened with it is Christ’s body, his bride, his temple for his presence in the world.

If there is any consolation, it is that this is not the first time.

“There are forces of nature—and forces of man—that challenge our ability to experience the presence of Christ,” said Gregory Mansour, the Maronite bishop of Brooklyn.

“[COVID-19] is different from persecution. But it is the same.”

A born-again Catholic led into personal relationship with Christ by the Navigators, Mansour later reconnected with his ancient Lebanon-based church. His clerical colleagues there received thousands of ISIS-fleeing Christians from Syria and Iraq.

“There was a deliberate desire to obliterate churches, hymnals, prayers, and people,” he said. “The only thing we had left was…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

Categories
IDEAS Middle East Published Articles

When You Can’t Return Home

Can't Go Home

We had just prepared our letter to loved ones in America.

Corona is spreading everywhere, I wrote, but we are on lockdown, and perhaps safer here than we would be in the States. We have money, food, and good relations with neighbors. We plan to stick it out here.

And then the announcement was issued by the government: The airport and all borders are closing in 48 hours.

Suddenly, my stomach dropped. All my earlier confidence felt like bravado. Unspoken, there was always the assumption that if things get bad here, we can leave. Now, it would be impossible. And given the unprecedented nature of this virus in our modern world, who knows when the opportunity to travel would come again.

The nation we live in is not known for its stability. What if it gets really bad?

After dropping, my stomach turned. Should we quickly uproot and return to America? I hadn’t yet sent that letter.

The complications to normal life would be terrible. The airports would be crowded Corona-factories. And who would receive us back home save for parents who must be extra careful against the virus?

I didn’t want to leave. But what does wisdom suggest when faced with a last chance? The reasons against leaving are clear, but they were not what I needed.

My earlier bravado disappeared.

I longed for a deeper confidence.

Stepping away from our own story, here are four reminders that helped buttress my spirit. Perhaps they will also be an encouragement to others.

  1. You have a job. Some foreigners are tourists, and others were sent overseas by their employer. But for many, the choice to live in a foreign nation was deliberate. We earn our salary, we enjoy cross-cultural experiences, but we also believe that our work is helpful.

Remember that. Corona will change the nature of your job, but not its essence. Keep at it, for the good of your adopted country.

  1. You have allies. If the section above applies, we are likely not squirreled away in an expat compound in isolation from national neighbors. We have probably learned at least a little bit of language. In all likelihood, we have friends.

Remember that. Corona is devastating them also, but they know how to live here. Rely on them, encourage them, and fit into their cooperative networks.

  1. You have providence. With proper humility, you can likely look back upon your journey to your country as a series of circumstances that somehow all fell into place. We studied, we planned, we decided, but we may have also prayed.

Remember that. Corona is upsetting many circumstances, but nothing eternally known. God “determined the times set for humankind and the exact places where they should live.” Rest in this truth.

  1. You have a mission. Our jobs are not our life. What we do is helpful, but who we are is unique and transformative. As we learn from others, they do from us. If offered humbly, we have much to contribute.

Remember that. Corona changes nothing of your essence. “As the Father sent me [Jesus], so send I you.” Find the good you can do, and do it.

Finally, my stomach settled. But to keep our confidence from becoming a spiritual bravado, two final reminders are necessary.

One, we remain foreigners. We retain privileges. We are guests.

Two, we are all foreigners. We receive grace. We are ambassadors.

Corona reminds us all of the transience of life and the fragility of the world. Our norms have been shaken, our illusions shattered.

But we remain human, and beloved of God. Abroad or at home, we will all return to him. Our deeper confidence can only be this: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”