06 September 2013

The Syrian Crisis - Is it just me?

by Dr Mark Keown

Is it just me, or does this situation in Syria make you deeply concerned? It seems like a rock and hard place dilemma for the international community. It seems that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons and many, including children, have been killed. Then again, is it a set-up to draw the US into helping the rebels knock over al-Assad’s regime? And, then there are the questions of what will happen and who will take over when it is all said and done? If things are as they seem, a horrendous war crime has occurred and its aftermath played out on international TV. President Obama has stated that the use of chemical weapons is a red line moment. So, it seems that the US must act and act decisively not only to stop this horror, but to uphold its honour and reputation in the eyes of the world and their “enemies.”

Many in the US clearly feel a strong need to send a clear signal – the use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons is unacceptable. Yet, it seems to me that Obama is hesitant, buying time in the US looking for Congress support. Who can blame him? Perhaps he kind of hopes that the Congress will get him out of an awkward situation as the British Parliament did for David Cameron. After all, the US debt is massive and another war could see them in real financial trouble. Yet, at the same time the UN is stalled and other nations are backing off getting involved leaving the US alone. The Syrians and Iran are threatening an attack on Israel if the US attack. Russia which backs the Syrian regime is also raising the rhetoric. A US attack could be catastrophic.

Is it just me, or does it feel like the stakes are rising here? I am not trying to be a prophet, but it seems that there is this inexorable pull toward a really big conflict in the Middle East in one of these uprisings. The world’s powers seem “hell-bent” on one day finally and ultimately sorting out their differences in the world where the events of Scripture were played out. It seems inevitable that one of these interventions in the Middle East will escalate, and before you know it, Jerusalem and Israel is surrounded by enemies and a war to end all wars will eventuate.

Saying such things is not so popular at the moment, because of the innumerable failed attempts to read the times in the past. Perhaps this is just another moment of rising heat that will end in another regime change in the Middle East, a la Iraq and Egypt. Or will it be something more? I for one feel increasingly uneasy and am watching closely.

Whatever the outcome, I feel something greater than all this apocalyptic angst. I feel myself deeply pulled to pray for the poor people of Syria and the Middle East who are caught up in this. These are people like you and me, flawed image bearers trying to live in a world of swirling suffering. Already there are 2 million displaced people and the numbers are growing exponentially. How long must their suffering go on? Let’s really commit to pray for these poor souls. Come Lord Jesus.

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