Middle East (MNN) — 41 people were killed in Turkey last week. 42 were also murdered in Yemen, and 5 people each in Jordan and Lebanon.
What do these tragic incidents have in common? They were all attacks by Muslim extremists, and they all barely made a blip in headlines or formally on social media.
However, after extremist attacks killed 49 people in the American city of Orlando, and 32 in Europe’s Brussels airport, other countries worldwide lit up their monuments in the affected nation’s colors, and Facebook added a photo filter in honor of those lives lost.
Why the contrast?
Christian Aid Mission’s Steve Van Valkenburg offers perspective. “I think that’s just part of human nature. If it’s somebody we identify with, then it becomes a much bigger deal and gets our attention because it’s closer to home…. We don’t really get drawn into it because they’re not really in our back yard or in our front yard so we just don’t pay attention to it.”
This series of suicide assaults by radical Muslims could increase suspicions and wariness between nationals and the refugees pouring over their borders. We’re already seeing the impact in Lebanon, which has raised its national terror alert.
“In a place like Lebanon where there was recently a bombing, this just makes Lebanon that much more concerned. Same with Jordan; Jordan just had that problem recently in the last week or so. So that just makes refugee ministry much harder to deal with because they’re much more suspicious,” says Van Valkenburg.
“Ministries reaching out to refugees have to be much more concerned now because they know there may be terrorist-type people among the refugees, maybe intentionally. That just makes things much harder because they know they have to be much more careful in reaching out and helping.”
Christian Aid Mission assists ministries in and around Syria working with refugees fleeing the conflict. While they have to practice caution in the areas they work, it hasn’t slowed their goal to bring healing, hope and the Gospel to those who are displaced.
“At Christian Aid, we help probably well over 100 ministries that are targeting trying to show Christ to Muslims, and really that’s the only solution.”
Governments and militaries in the Middle East and Europe are trying to address the ISIS conflicts at a national level. But Van Valkenburg estimates the biggest impact will come from Christian outreach at the heart level, especially as we come to the end of Ramadan today, Islam’s holy month.
“Ramadan is supposed to be a struggle to increase devotion to Allah…. For some, unfortunately, their struggle or devotion to Allah becomes something they do that destroys people. There’s nothing really that’s going to prevent that apart from people’s hearts being changed, and only Christ can change hearts.
“As Christians, every day we should be struggling to increase our devotion to Jesus Christ, but that’s by showing love — loving our neighbor, loving our enemy. That’s a far different idea in terms of our struggle. But for the Christian, every day that’s our desire is that the love of Christ would be lived out in us.”
Middle Eastern countries suffering from extremist attacks, displacement, and loss need to be more than just white noise in the background of the international landscape.
Galatians 6:9 tells us to “…not grow weary of doing good…” (ESV). That includes praying for God to move in countries who seem to have constant need.
Here’s one way you can stay engaged with Christian Aid Mission: “[You] can always sign up for Missions Insider that Christian Aid Mission puts out every week, and that will give a brand new glimpse into what’s happening in other countries in terms of sharing the Gospel with people and obviously increasing their prayers.”
And it may seem like a shameless plug on our part, but here’s also why Van Valkenburg says it’s important to find information sources like Mission Network News! “By reading and listening to Mission Network News, people become familiar with the world around them. The news you get from Mission Network News is going to be very different than what you get in the newspaper.
“Those are all ways that people become more familiar so they can pray more intelligently, because God answers prayer and God is working. We appreciate very much those around the world who continually pray for hearts to be changed, and that is happening.”
Pray for the Lord to give Christians in the Middle East courage for each day, compassion for their neighbors, and boldness to share the Gospel’s hope. Pray for Muslims and others in the Middle East who don’t know Christ to embrace God’s truth of salvation and love.