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Crisis in Syria escalates; West considers interventioncomment (0)

September 5, 2013

Crisis in Syria escalates; West considers intervention

"I am staying,” said a Baptist pastor in Syria. “They tell me to travel, to leave, to immigrate, but I tell them I am staying.”

He is one of several local pastors who minister and serve in Baptist churches throughout this country caught up in civil war.

“I am staying for the Church, to keep the message of Jesus as a light for the lost and frightened,” he said. “I am staying because the harvest is plentiful. I am staying to serve the needy.”

Every day the numbers rise as Syria’s crisis rages out of control and spills across borders into neighboring countries. There are now more than 2 million refugees, 5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 100,000 dead.

“This is an unparalleled challenge,” said Don Alan, a senior missions strategist for the Middle East. “It is destabilizing the whole region, and it’s a tragedy.”

Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt struggle to cope with the increasing Syrian refugee situation. Within Syria, civilians are caught between armed rebels and government troops.

Over a period of three days in late August 30,000 Syrians crossed the border into northern Iraq, overwhelming refugee camps. Drinking water and sanitation immediately became critical needs.

Also hundreds of civilians were recently killed and thousands wounded as a result of a chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus. Both sides in the conflict accuse the other of this violation of international law.

Most of the world’s superpowers, however, suspect the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad’s leadership is the perpetrator and are considering punitive action. 

At press time, President Barack Obama was still considering how the U.S. would respond while Britain’s parliament ruled Aug. 29 against participating in a strike. On Aug. 30, President François Hollande, of France, offered strong support for international military action.

A regional risk assessment consultant who advises Christian organizations said, “Analysts seem to believe that if such action does occur it will be a limited strike on Syrian government targets.”

European Baptist leaders urged caution, however.

Stephen Keyworth, faith and society team leader for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, joined leaders from the Methodist Church in Britain and United Reformed Church in a statement on the crisis in Syria.

“At this time of challenge and uncertainty we pray for the people of Syria. ... We also pray for wisdom and discernment from political leaders in Britain and other nations.”

The statement urged Western governments “to take time for careful consideration and resist hasty response. Syria has experienced a cycle of violence for too long.”

They also drew attention to an Aug. 27 statement by World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, appealing to the United Nations and international community “to work cooperatively for a negotiated political means to find a peaceful end to this conflict.”

Pope Francis and Jordan’s King Abdullah II also reaffirmed Aug. 29 that dialogue among all Syrians with international support is the “only option” to end the conflict in Syria.

The two leaders met at the Vatican. The pontiff and the king, accompanied by his wife Queen Rania, talked in private for 20 minutes. According to an official Vatican statement, during the meeting “special attention” was given to Syria’s “tragic situation.”

The Catholic Church has been following with concern the radicalization of Syria’s civil war. The country hosts a sizable Christian minority, which has mostly sided with Assad during the two-year-long conflict.

(Compiled from wire services)

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