Egypt and Syria: Massacre and The Threat of Massacre - plus an Easter Prayer


Date:  April 12, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal

This RLPB will not be the 'short Easter devotion' promised last week. Rather 
we must press on with intercession in view of the events of the past week, 
which indicate that the Christian crisis in the Middle East is moving to a 
whole new level. 


Soon after 9am on Sunday 9 April, as the believers were enjoying Palm Sunday 
celebrations, a suicide bomber entered Mar Girgis (St George) Church in the 
Nile Delta city of Tanta. Launching himself towards the front of the church, 
he detonated himself beside the altar. At least 27 worshippers were killed 
and a further 78 others wounded. A few hours later in coastal Alexandria, a 
suicide bomber approached St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral. Unable to gain 
entrance to the church, he blew himself up outside, killing 18 civilians and 
four police officers. The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, had 
just finishing addressing the congregation, but was not hurt. By Sunday 
afternoon, Islamic State in Egypt had claimed both attacks.  

That evening, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi announced on television 
that he would impose a three-month nationwide state of emergency, establish a 
Supreme Anti-Terrorism Council and fast-track amendments to the criminal code 
to expedite the trials of terror suspects. On 10 April the Egyptian 
parliament approved the measures.  

The situation for Copts in Egypt is extremely complex. Churches are a soft 
target for Islamic militants aiming to trigger sectarian conflict to 
destabilise or extract concessions from the state. Meanwhile, many Muslims in 
authority view Christians as pawns, expendable in the pursuit of Western 
military aid and support. In other words, both the jihadists and the 
authorities stand to gain from bombing the churches. Furthermore, after 
receiving intelligence on 10 April that an IS attack was imminent, Israel 
closed the border crossing between Taba in Egypt's South Sinai Province and 
Eilat in southern Israel, on the north shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. As Islamic 
State's Caliphate collapses in Mosul, many of IS's Egyptian fighters are 
returning home. Islamic State in Egypt is growing and, with Muslim 
Brotherhood support, is escalating its campaign. The Christian crisis in 
Egypt is moving to a whole new level.      

Of course this violence leaves many nominal or cultural Muslims shaken, 
repulsed and disillusioned - indeed many will reject Islam because of it. An 
evangelical pastor in the Middle East told Jennifer Breedon (an analyst with 
the Clarion Project): 'Today ISIS is the evangelizer... I am merely a baptizer 
of their converts to Christianity.' While the pastor's comment may be 
understood, it would be more accurate to say that ISIS is the hammer that is 
smashing Islam's illusions, while in demonstrating divine amazing grace, 
Egypt's Christians are the evangelisers.  

PLEASE PRAY FOR Egypt's grieving, traumatised and anxious Christians. May God 
comfort them, supply all their needs and redeem all their suffering. May the 
Lord pour his Holy Spirit on them that they will continue to demonstrate 
divine amazing grace (see Luke 6:27-31), evangelising Egypt (and the world) 
in the process.  


On the night of Thursday 6 April, US President Donald Trump ordered a missile 
strike on Syria's Shayrat Airbase. Located about 40 km east of the city 
of Homs, Shayrat is the principal base from where Syrian and Russian forces 
have been fighting Islamic State in eastern Syria. While the impact of the 59 
Tomahawk cruise missiles appears to have been minimal, the action - which was 
surely illegal - further complicates an already complicated situation. The 
missile strike was ordered on the basis of 'intelligence' (primarily 
heart-rending images of children in the village of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib) 
provided by Turkey and Saudi-backed, al-Qaeda-led 'rebels'. Without any 
independent investigation, the West deemed Assad guilty of launching a 
chemical attack on civilians, despite the obvious fact that the Syrian 
government - which was making great gains militarily and politically - had 
nothing to gain from such a provocation and everything to lose. On the 
contrary, the mostly foreign 'rebels' - who care little about Syria or 
Syrians and are on the back foot militarily - had nothing to lose and 
everything to gain. Meanwhile, according to Homs governor Talal al-Barazi, 14 
Syrians were killed in the US attack on the Shayrat airbase, nine of whom 
were civilians, including women and children. 

It should not be forgotten that NATO-member Turkey and US-allied Saudi Arabia 
and Qatar started the Syrian war when they chose to exploit 'Arab Spring' 
unrest in Syria to pursue regime change in Damascus. The Turkey-Arab Sunni 
Axis' aim is to restore Sunni hegemony (as was the situation before WW1) and 
install a Sunni regime in Damascus more amenable to Sunni interests. If the 
US does not step back, the consequences for Christians will be disastrous.  

The situation is further complicated by the fact that Hezbollah is known to 
be stockpiling weapons in southern Syria in preparation for a new war with 
Israel which may well be launched from Syrian territory. In the early hours 
of 17 March Israeli air-force jets entered Syrian airspace and fired rockets 
into a convoy understood to be transporting Iranian weapons to Hezbollah's 
T-4 military base at Palmyra, drawing fire from Syrian air defences in the 
process. This evolving situation is causing a dilemma for Russia, which is 
allied to Iran and Syria, and to Israel with whom it has pledged 
co-operation. For Israel the security situation is becoming critical, as the 
threat posed by Iran-Hezbollah is greater than the threat posed by Islamic 

The fact we cannot ignore is that if the Syrian government falls jihadists 
will fill the vacuum, triggering a new exodus and genocide. Western policy is 
spinning so fast it is dizzying. The only solution I (Elizabeth Kendal) could 
propose would be an alliance comprising Russia, the Alawites, Israel and the 
West, committed to keeping the bulk of Mesopotamia (i.e. 'the Fertile 
Crescent of minorities') free from Islamic rule and free from Turkish, Arab 
or Persian domination. 'With God, all things are possible' (Matthew 19:26; 
see also, Luke 1:37).  

PLEASE PRAY FOR Syria's grieving, traumatised and deeply anxious Christians; 
may God comfort them, supply all their needs and redeem all their suffering. 
May the Lord intervene in Syria in the interests of the Church, in the 
interests of Syria.    

~ ~ ~ ~


Dear God our Father,

We lift before you the imperilled Christians of the Middle East, along with 
persecuted and suffering believers everywhere.  

They suffer betrayal, injustice, violence and killing - just as you did. They 
struggle with fear, panic, terror and confusion - just as did your disciples. 

Though we join in lamentations we find hope in the Cross which reminds us 
that no matter how deep the darkness, you are there, alive and active, 
subverting evil and redeeming it for good in fulfilment of promise. 


Add our tears to the tears of the bereaved and oppressed, and to the blood of 
the martyrs: that suffering might be redeemed, that hearts might be softened 
and the 'soil' prepared to receive the Gospel of grace.  

Pour out your Spirit afresh upon the Church, that we might with boldness step 
out in faith and with grace and great generosity of spirit to be 
cross-bearers (Luke 14:27) and burden-sharers (Galatians 6:2) that the world 
might believe (John 17:20-13).  

Lord have mercy on us for the sake of the Lamb, Jesus Christ the King of 
kings and Lord of lords.  


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