Middle East (MNN) — Church
leaders are condemning Saturday's deadly violence at a church in Egypt which
killed at least 21 people.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on Christians in
the Middle East and Africa. On December
30, at least four homes of Christians in Baghdad were bombed, killing at least
two people and injuring 13 others.
The violence is forcing many Christians to rethink their
future in the area, while many others have given up and are leaving.
SAT-7, a Christian satellite television service to the
Middle East and North Africa, is in the thick of it. David Harder says, "We are really mobilizing our efforts to not
only ask for prayers for peace, and prayers for the victims' families, and for
those who are suffering currently in hospitals, but also trying to get out the
message of being a good neighbor."
Their message is echoed by Pope Benedict, who is
encouraging believers to persevere in a non-violent manner. He also called for a commitment to peace in
their relations with their neighbors.
However, Harder says,
"Emotions are very raw. My brother was
in the largest Protestant church Sunday night, and during the service, when
there were prayers for the government to have wisdom in this situation and do
the right thing, somebody stood up and was very upset and angry about that. It
was certainly not in the spirit of the meeting and trying to pray for peace."
The bombings have opened a vein of anger and fear for
Christians, particularly those in Egypt. There's good reason for that. "This Friday will be the Eastern Christmas. It happens on January 7,"
Harder explains. "Most Protestants in
Egypt also use the Eastern calendar and celebrate this Christmas. So with this
attack that just happened, they're very concerned that there might be more
The tension has the SAT-7 team pushing the message of peace
as hard as they dare. "We are
broadcasting live shows each day this week where the topic will be about what
has happened at these bombings and how people can respond, how Christians
should respond. We are broadcasting Scriptures."
In a live show there's a chance for dialogue and discussion,
a chance to release tension, and perhaps
a safe place to grieve.
their message often runs counter to the culture. "It's revenge; it's ‘eye for an eye;' it's
that sort of thing." But there's hope,
too. "As Christians, we're told to
‘turn the other cheek' and to love our
enemies. These are very hard things. Really, only the Holy Spirit can enable people to do that."
When Christians are a part of the solution, it sends
a strong witness that Jesus is real. "We
have that kind of compassionate, loving God.
We hope that in our broadcasts this week, the many pastors
and priests who will be speaking this week will hope that this kind of love and compassion will be
manifest so people will know the good news of Jesus."
Continue to pray with the team as they work this week to
spread the message of the peace of Christ. Pray for open hearts, for safety, and for wisdom for the hosts as they
respond to the pain of a community.