What’s the story?
The world is arguably at its most unstable since the 1960s. Countries are racked by internal conflict, terrorism continues to cast a dark shadow, and many of the world’s most powerful nations are racked with civil unrest. In this context, there are daily news reports of wars, riots and atrocities, including recent terror attacks in Nice, Baghdad and Orlando.
It was initially known for a quick-fire string of celebrity deaths, but now it seems that 2016 will be remembered for a series of horrific incidents around the world which have taken terrorism to new depths and death tolls to tragic new lengths.
June saw the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States, a nation which has seen countless incidents of its kind (there have been over 1,000 mass shootings in the US in the last five years). Gunman Omar S Mateen walked into an Orlando nightclub and opened fire on those inside, killing 50. Mateen’s attack was not indiscriminate – this was a gay nightclub, and Mateen’s disapproval of the LGBT community was well-documented.
Then in early July, a huge bomb ripped through a heavily-populated area of Baghdad, killing over 250 people. Such attacks have become tragically common in post-invasion Iraq, as the Middle East remains an unstable battleground where armies, tribes and terror groups continue to compete for power and control; millions of innocent civilians remain caught in the crossfire.
And just a week later, and less than a year on from the co-ordinated attacks which rocked Paris last November, the French city of Nice was devastated by another murderous attack. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel killed 84 people and injured 300 more when he drove a truck directly through a Bastille Day parade for over 2km.
Rolling news is continually filled with footage of incidents such as these, but also of wars, large-scale civil disturbances, and a growing refugee crisis which now sees around 24 million people displaced by domestic crises. It’s natural for any generation to look at the bad news of their present and interpret things as being somehow ‘worse now than ever’ while gazing at the past through rose-tinted glasses, but right now it may be a fair assessment.
What have others been saying?
Writing in the Guardian, Simon Jenkins says that “no state can stop one madman in a truck”, and that our only response to Nice should be sympathy.
Ishaan Tharoor writes provocatively that ‘ISIS’ most deadly attack in weeks is the one the world probably cares about least,’ in The Independent.
And I wrote that Christians must not stay quiet about attacks on the LGBT community, in an articlefor Christian Today.
#1 – “DO NOT GROW WEARY”
It would be very easy for Christians to lose heart in the current climate, especially as religion is no longer seen by many as an appropriate response to difficult times. Classic apologetics questions about “why God allows...” reverberate around our culture, and sometimes our own heads. Paul addresses this directly, first in Galatians 6 v 9 where he responds to our natural reaction to relentless evil by urging: “Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Then in Ephesians 5:16 he compels us to “[make] the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Simply put, Christians must not lose hope, and that means continuing to actively respond to hatred with love.
#2 – PEACEMAKING
Jesus was a well-documented fan of peace and those who make it (Matthew 5 v 9), but what does that mean in practice? By coming to earth as a man, Jesus models reconciliation – first between God and man, and then between the various tribes and tongues of the earth, creating one uniting church out of a system that had previously seen God favour one nation. As his ‘fellow-workers’ (1 Corinthians 3 v 9), it’s our task to carry this on; sharing his hope and love in a world rocked by division and hatred.
Points for prayer
· Pray for all those effected by the terrible incidents of the past few weeks, that they would be comforted by the peace of God.
· Pray that we would not become desensitised to atrocity, especially when it happens far beyond our shores and not in ‘the West’. Pray also that we would not lose hope – as nations and individuals.
· Pray for the church around the world, responding on the ground to horrors like these, or simply providing refuge and space for those who are weary at the evil state of the world.
· Pray for peace; for great Godly leadership on the global stage which can turn the current age of uncertainty and terror into an age of peace and prosperity.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.