Friday, October 4, 2013

Prayers and Poison Gas

A few times recently I have alluded to my concerns for Syrian Christian believers in the midst of the current civil war there.  I have said that our desire to see the dictator Assad defeated is well meaning but somewhat naive, as the rebels fighting him are largely associated with the Taliban and Hezbollah, both of which will treat Christians much worse than he has, since he himself is from another religious minority in the country.  I believe that the welfare of my brothers and sisters is a higher priority in my prayers than the end of a dictatorship in favor of what may well be an Islamist state.

This has caused a few questions from those who see reports of the dictator's government using chemical weapons against civilians.  That action has sparked international outrage, U.S. threats, and now a Russian-negotiated deal.  We don't know if the deal will hold, but some have wondered how we could tolerate the use of chemical weapons against people, especially innocent children.

Bashar al-Assad
No one would or should defend the actions of Assad in using chemical weapons on civilians.  However, I have a question or two to ask those who believe the use of poison gas demands response, including a possible military intervention.

How is killing hundreds, if not thousands, with poison gas inherently more evil than killing them with bombs and bullets--except that many nations have signed treaties that say this kind of weapon and killing is not allowed?  Doesn't that seem strange?  So if he kills, say, 1,000 people with poison gas, we should intervene, but if he kills 5,000 with bombs and bullets, we do nothing?  Actually the death toll in Syria from regular weapons is much higher.

Survivors of the poison gas attack
If we intervene, and Islamist rebels take over and begin killing Christians, Druze, Alawites, and other minorities, or a war between Shia and Sunni Muslims ensues, will we intervene again?

The point is moot right now, as the Congress would not have approved such action and the President has withdrawn his request for it.  Supposedly the chemical weapons are going to be removed.  And it would seem that with the support of Russia and China, the dictator will stay, at least temporarily.  But the civil war goes on, with people dying the "old fashioned" way.

It's horrible, and we should pray for peace.  But in our prayers, we should pray first that God would make
A Syrian Christian choir
himself known and glorified through this by opening eyes and hearts to the Gospel.  And second, we should pray for our brothers and sisters who have lived through years of struggle just to remain where they are, that they will have boldness and power in their testimony for the Gospel, and that God would watch over them, giving them the grace they need in these perilous days.