Lebanon (MNN) – Things are heating up in Lebanon.
After a drone attack in Hezbollah territory in Beirut, the United Nations urges ‘maximum restraint’ in the region. Heart For Lebanon co-founder Tom Atema explains the situation like this: “Israel feels very strongly that Hezbollah and Syria are working together– that Hezbollah and Syria are proxy organizations for the country of Iran.”
He went on to say, “Hezbollah has missiles and guns and ammunition all pointed at Israel like never before and growing in numbers, and the UN (United Nations) is not doing anything. It got to a point where, Israel felt, ‘Okay. We’ve got to do something’.”
Although highly politically charged, the scenario he laid out is pretty much what everyone agrees on. “That’s what they’re both sides have stated. Everybody’s calling for calm and for peace. But we all know what the Bible says (and the day and age in which we live) about peace: a lot of people will be calling for it, but it really won’t happen.”
Layers of crisis
This situation exacerbates concern that’s already growing over the economic crisis in Lebanon. It also threatens an escalation between Israel and Iran. For example, Israel launched strikes last week aimed at Hezbollah and Palestinian areas of Beirut. Not since 2006 has there been such open hostile action between Israel and Lebanon.
This week, Hezbollah returned fire on Israeli military positions in the first cross-border clash in years. The tit-for-tat threatens fragile stability in the region, which is why Atema says, “Pray for the peace of the Middle East. Pray for our workers as they maneuver through the different personalities and the different political situations on the ground.”
The silver lining
Another dynamic to layer over proxy war fears is the hostility from bad blood between Syria and Lebanon over the 30-year occupation, and now, the drag of the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon’s resources. Even as mistrust grows between the Syrian refugees and Lebanon, their host country, there’s also a silver lining.
Ministries like Heart For Lebanon try to walk on the narrow path fraught with politics and emotion. The Hope Ministry Center, located in the
heart of the Bekaa Valley, is close to local authorities and government offices. Within reach are most of the agencies serving the refugee population in the area, and it is easily accessible to the refugee and the local community alike.
Hope for the future
Most importantly, Atema says, “People will be served, cared for, and presented with the Gospel. Hope for the future will begin here.” The new center opens October 1 with a dedication ceremony planned October 27.
The facility includes a warehouse, 250 seat chapel and training room, cafeteria, clinic, dormitories for mission teams, fellowship hall, and distribution area. The Hope Ministry Center will educate and equip over 12,000 refugees each year to overcome poverty, moving them from despair to hope. “The building we’ve been talking about will let us almost triple our ministry in the Bekaa Valley,” he says, adding “the only reason we can’t get to that point is that we don’t have the funding for it.”
Header photo of Beirut, Lebanon courtesy Jeff M/Flickr/CC