The Word on the Week

Arab Summer

As the Arab Spring gives way to the Arab Summer the momentum for change has slowed to a resolute resistance in most Middle-East countries. In Cairo the spectacle of the once all-powerful dictator Mubarak being wheeled into the courtroom on a hospital trolley, which was then parked in a steel cage, sent a potent message of people power throughout the region. The sight may have stiffened the resolve of Syrian’s President Assad whose family have dominated the country for the last 41 years, to fight on. Like Libya’s Col. Gadafy he has not many friends in neighbouring countries where he could go for refuge. So the Syrian slaughter continues; tanks and snipers against peaceful protest. Meanwhile in the Yemen tens of thousands gathered for protests both for and against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade rule as the country slides ever nearer civil war. The fast of Ramadan commenced last Monday in which Muslims abstain from food and drinks from morning until after sunset. Many believe by observing this, it will help them to get closer to God and perhaps earn a place in heaven. One might have hoped this would have created a cooling off period but there has been no discernable lessening of the fighting. Has the Bible anything to say to this situation? The transition from dictatorship to democracy has never been easy and can take many years to complete. Freedoms are not easily won nor do those in authority find it easy to relinquish their grasp on power. Frequently internal wars cause people to regroup along ethnic and religious lines as they look around for security which is the first victim of the conflict. Friends who once trusted one another become fearful. Reconciliation seems impossible. What is the way back? Ramadan or repentance? The Bible says first there has to be reconciliation with God before we can look for His aid in being reconciled with each other. This happens when we admit we have sinned against God and recognise that Christ died in our place – “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. He was the perfect substitute – “our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”. Romans Chapter 5 Verses 8-11. Secondly Jesus said that religious duties will not restore the friendship –“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” St Matthew Chapter 5 verses 23/4. We need to go to the estranged one in the same way we went to God – recognising the sin and the need of forgiveness – “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” St Matthew Chapter 18 verse 15. So whether or not the fault lies with us the way of forgiveness is the same.