by Patricia Depew
It was February, 2011. Fifteen-year-old Mohammed and his young friends were walking down a street in their home town of Daraa, Syria. The day was beautiful, and the sun blazed down on Daraa’s ancient and modern landmarks. Close by the boys heard the voices and music of people enjoying afternoon tea in an open bazaar. Their attention, however, was not on the beauty of Daraa. They were talking about how great it would be if Syria could be free from government oppression. Their excitement had been aroused by the discussions in their families about the revolutions in other Arab nations, namely Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. Many Syrian people were tired of the corruption, economic hardship, rising cost of living, and the lack of Sunni Islamic influence on their government. On a street in Daraa Syria, Mohammed and his friends decided they wanted to write about their antigovernment feelings someplace where it could be seen by many people. They chose to write their thoughts on a large wall of an old building. With shouts of, “Allah Akbar” they wrote, “The people want the regime to fall,” and, “It’s your turn, Doctor (President Bashar Assad)!”
Mohammed and his companions were arrested and taken to the local branch of Syria’s infamous political security forces where they were beaten—not to extract information, but as punishment for what they had written on the wall. As word spread of their detention, family members and neighbors began clamoring for their release. Assad at first attempted to appease the town and ordered the boys released; but he failed to stop the growing anger. Demonstrations continued and soon spread throughout the entire country. The protests were repressed by the ruthless action of Assad’s military, and it was only a matter of time before peaceful dissent turned into armed resistance. Once that happened, the Syrian revolt exploded, and the outgunned rebels looked for help from other Sunni Islamic groups beyond their borders. Some of the Sunni Arab countries that were sympathetic to the rebels included Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. (For more background, see: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/01/world/meast/syria-crisis-beginnings)
This explosive situation had been in the making for many years. Since 1963 the Socialist Baath Party has dominated Syria. The Assad family who are Alawites took over in 1971, and Syria became a dictatorship. Thousands of people were placed in prisons and tortured for political reasons. Of Syria’s population of over 22 million people, only about two million are Alawites. The Sunni Muslims make up 74 percent of the population, and they have long wanted more political power. The Christian community consists of about 10 percent of the people, and they are represented mainly by Eastern Orthodox ethnic groups. The Assad regime has allowed the Christians to have their own courts and some privileges as long as they do not proselytize Muslims. The current civil war has increased the power of the Sunnis who have made life more difficult for the Syrian Christians. Other religious groups in Syria include the Druze and some Jewish communities which exist in Aleppo and Damascus.
Almost all Islamic countries develop dictatorial governments. In some Islamic countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, the government imposes strict Islamic Shari’a law on the people. Compare this kind of leadership with the love and grace that is seen in Jesus, the servant-king. Saint Paul clearly wrote about this in Philippians 2:3-5,7: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus … rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
by Keith Carey
Dear Praying Friends,
It was two years ago that we had a similar edition of the GPD featuring the Arab Spring. But the strife that engulfed much of North Africa continues today in Egypt, and it has put Syria into the unenviable position of being a country that is not only bleeding internally, but is the center of foreign power intervention. This GPD is being written in August, 2013, and the civil war is still raging. If you would like to do some thorough prayer for Syria, please order Shout for Joy, Syria! by going to: http://www.alibris.com/search/books/invid/10718283082
The headlines look grim and so do many of this month’s prayer entries. You will be praying about hostilities between various unreached people groups: Alawites against Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims against Sunni Muslims, etc. But please pray and continue read until the end of this edition when we will learn about some encouraging reports from Israel. In one case, a seriously ill Syrian girl was given medical attention in Israel. You will pray for two situations where Messianic Jews and Christian Arabs are working together for the cause of Christ. These true stories give the world a wonderful testimony about what can happen if people put Christ before their own selfish ambitions! Pray that the many unreached peoples of the Middle East will find the reconciler, Jesus Christ, to be the only One who can save them from themselves.
Keith Carey, managing editor, GPD