Lebanon (MNN) – The interim Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker issued pleas for calm after Tuesday’s night of violence in Lebanon.
Government security forces clashed with Shiite supporters stirring fears of more political and economic turmoil. The situation is disconcerting for most. Pierre Houssney is Executive Director for Horizons International, based in Beirut. First, he notes that since the protests began October 17, “It has been almost supernatural how peaceful these protests have been.”
Anger over the government’s approach to the economic crisis sparked the protests, which lead to the resignation of Saad al-Hariri –a Sunni–as Prime Minister. The problem is that Lebanon’s main parties aren’t in agreement on the formation of a new government since Hariri stepped down.
Security forces attempted to disperse protesters, and that’s where things took a turn for the worse three days ago. Houssney described one attempt as “A lot of tear gas being administered to the crowds of protesters that were downtown. And you see on Twitter or the news, just clouds of tear gas just wafting over crowds of people.”
Turning a corner in Lebanon
As the effort to quell the mob intensified, a seemingly opposite reaction also emerged. “It was amazing just watching the protesters that were clashing with the forces, that when the forces got hurt, they were helping them. It shows that from the beginning, the protesters have been very aware that they’re not protesting against the army. But the army has the unfortunate task of having to put down the protests on behalf of the corrupt politicians.”
Unity for Lebanon prevailed…until a video making the rounds inflamed sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shiite. In it, a man curses supporters of the Shiite Amal party, Hezbollah, and its leaders. The fallout from the video is still unfolding.
Despite the turn of Lebanon’s protests, Houssney says there’s still a silver lining in the process: hope is born. “When people get shaken up out of their status quo, they often become more spiritually open. It’s the same as when God called Abraham out of his hometown. He pulled him out. He showed him new things, and that was a formative time in his life where he’s open to hearing God’s Word.”
Plowing the field
Churches partnered with Horizons International say they’ve noticed a shift, too. In the past five or six years, ministry involved Syrian refugees coming to the church for aid and finding Christ. At the same time, “We (still saw) a hardness of heart in the Lebanese people, both traditional Christian backgrounds, and Muslim backgrounds. But now, we’ve seen openness ever since the status quo was shaken up.”
Planting the seed
As hope for change builds, Houssney says it needs investment somewhere. “Our prayer is that that’s going to be invested in Christ. We’re making Christ available for those people that are trying to find a new place to put their hope in because they’ve lost hope in the system.” Houssney also believes that wherever believers preach God’s Word, it will eventually bear fruit. Lebanon has long been praying for change.
A final thought: could it be that the winds of change are coming in on the clouds of tear gas? “It’s like the verse in Haggai (2:7) that says, ‘The Lord will shake the nations and then the desired of all nations will come forth.’ Well, that desire of the nations is Jesus, and so we’re just trying to proclaim that in this in this atmosphere of uncertainty.”
(Headline photo courtesy Horizons International)