Date: October 11, 2023
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 714
7 OCT 2023: HAMAS ATTACKS ISRAEL; TRIGGERS WAR
CHRISTIANS IMPERILLED: THREATS AND A SMOKESCREEN
By Elizabeth Kendal
At 11:30pm on Friday 6 October, Gaza-based Islamic terror group Hamas started firing the first of 5000 rockets into Israel. At 1:15am Saturday 7 October, Hamas announced the start of a military operation dubbed ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’. By 1:45am, Israel was returning fire; and at 3:34am Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel was at war. As the sun rose on Israel, some 1000 Hamas terrorists invaded the ‘Gaza envelope’ (populated area within 7km of Gaza) by land, sea, and air. By Monday the death toll had risen to over 1500 including some 900 Israelis, mostly civilians (including whole families, even infants) who were slaughtered in cold blood. A further 2500 Israelis had been wounded and around 150 abducted – including small children and an elderly holocaust survivor – taken as hostages and human shields into Gaza [see Live Updates, Al-Monitor]. On 8 October, HizbAllah official Hashem Salhab delivered a speech in Lebanon where he claimed that ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ is just a manoeuvre in advance of a larger and multi-arena operation that will eliminate Israel [MEMRI, 9 Oct]; indicating that what we have seen is just the beginning.
MOSAD (Israel), MI6 (UK) and the CIA (USA) might have been taken by surprise, but MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) was not. Using nothing but open source material, MEMRI warmed back on 31 August, ‘that a war against Israel may break out in September or October 2023’. Included in MEMRI’s list of indicators was the fact that: ‘In this context [of escalating provocations on every front] the heads of the resistance axis [specifically leaders from Iran, HezbAllah (Iran’s proxy in Lebanon), Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)] held a series of meetings in Lebanon.’ [NOTE: the Iran-led, Shi’ite dominated ‘Axis of Resistance’ is comprised of groups – Shia and Sunni – that are committed to ridding the Middle East of US bases and the state of Israel. The Axis of Resistance rejects alliances with the US and any peace/normalisation with Israel.]
This much is obvious: in Israel and in Gaza, Christians are going to die. However, the threat extends way beyond the obvious. All around the wider Middle East, the danger facing remnant Christians will escalate in direct proportion to the escalation in Islamic zeal all around them. As I wrote in After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, 2016): ‘There is a popular Arabic war cry which never fails to make the blood of Middle Eastern Christians run cold. Whether Muslims are spray-painting it on walls, whispering it in ears, or chanting it in the streets “Ba'd as-sabt biji yom al-ahad” (After Saturday comes Sunday) is issued as a threat, meaning: As sure as Saturday (the day of Jewish worship) is followed by Sunday (the day of Christian worship), first we’ll kill the Jews, then we’ll kill the Christians.’ And as I demonstrate in the book, this is no idle threat. In a country like Iraq where Jews have already been eliminated, Hamas’ terrorism is being celebrated and vulnerable remnant Christians are gravely imperilled. Even further afield, it is routinely the case that vulnerable minority Christians in Northern Nigeria and Pakistan receive ‘blowback’ (unintended consequences) – mostly in the form of Islamic anti-Christian pogroms – when events in the West (includes Israel) inflame Islamic passions.
Compounding the risk is the fact that a war in the Middle East involving Israel will devour the world’s attention, creating a smokescreen behind which other agendas can be advanced and atrocities committed. If the war continues and escalates, then Turkey and Azerbaijan might assess that now is the perfect time to advance their pan-Turkic agenda across the South Caucuses at the expense of even more Armenians. The military junta in Burma/Myanmar might assess that now is the perfect time to eliminate resistance, once and for all. At 11:30pm on Monday 9 October, the Burmese junta launched a military strike on a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Laiza – a city in predominantly Christian Kachin State, killing 29 IDP, including many women and children and wounding 56. (The junta has denied responsibility.) Those intent on dispossessing, disinheriting and disenfranchising remnant Assyrian Christians in Northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains might assess that now is the time to enact the final solution [see RLPB 702, Christian Crisis in Azerbaijan and Iraq, 19 July 2023]. After all, the lesson of Nagorno Karabakh [RLPB 712 (27 Sep)] is this: when geostrategic power and influence and supply of gas and oil are involved, then some people are simply expendable. We must continue to watch and pray for all our imperilled brothers and sisters.
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR MERCIFUL GOD WILL:
- intervene to redeem all this horror and suffering for his good purposes; may peace be forthcoming and may many seek God and find the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:1-7). ‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand’ (Proverbs 19:21 ESV) ‘…for his steadfast love endures forever’ (from Psalm 136 ESV).
- protect Christians in Israel, in Gaza, in Iraq and the wider Middle East, in Northern Nigeria and Pakistan and in every place where the possibility of violence against vulnerable Christian minorities is now elevated. Lord have mercy!
- grant imperilled vulnerable Christians great wisdom and discernment as they navigate their changing and possibly increasingly hostile environment. Lord have mercy!
- fan into flame that deep yet simple faith that moves believers to pray and ‘rest’ in the love, gentleness and faithfulness of God. (Matthew 11:28-30)
A Psalm to meditate on and pray through as we advocate in the Heavenly Court of The King of Kings for our vulnerable, imperilled brothers and sisters: Psalm 56