Prayer alert: US refuses Iranian Christians; Syria escalations

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Since I started writing about my US-based seminary life, I’ve lost some subscribers. They didn’t say why, but perhaps it is because I’m writing less about Israel and Middle East affairs and news in general. School keeps me very busy with reading and writing. Still, I do scan headlines. Journalism is still a vocation, even if it’s in the background right now. This morning, I saw two news items that require prayer and attention from Christians.

US turns away Iranian Christian asylum seekers

Fresco of Christ’s Scourging in the Church of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, Vank Cathedral, in Isfahan, Iran. (Credit: Adam Jones via Flickr (CC))

Foreign Policy reports that the Trump administration has denied asylum to more than 100 Iranian Christians.

The Iranians applied for visas under a U.S. law known as the Lautenberg Amendment, designed to provide special refugee status to persecuted religious minorities, allowing them to resettle in the United States. The 1989 law was originally written to help Jews in the former Soviet Union and later was expanded to include Christian and other minorities in former Soviet states and Iran.

Before President Donald Trump entered office, similar refugee cases under the Lautenberg Amendment had an approval rate of close to 100 percent. Prior to arriving in Vienna, the refugees go through initial screening, and Austria then issues transit visas on request of the State Department. Once in Austria, the refugees are interviewed by U.S. authorities.

In the past, the procedure took a matter of weeks or a few months. But the process has ground to a virtual halt under Trump’s tenure, and rights groups say the administration could be violating the U.S. law. (Foreign Policy)

There is potential that these Christians will be sent back to Iran, though US officials say they are working to find an alternative place for resettlement.

[Read more on this story
at ABC, Christian Post, and CBN.]

In addition to praying, those in the US should contact the president and congressional representatives to express their alarm, dismay or other opinions about this refusal.

The Syria ‘memory hole’

Bloomberg ran an opinion piece by Tyler Cowen that said that as we become more tolerant of military conflict violent conflict will increase. What prompted this analysis was a report of that as many as 200 Russian mercenaries were killed by US forces in a failed attack on a US position in Syria.

Yes, I buried the lead, but that’s the point Cowen is making. How is it that this news story isn’t being reported everywhere. Part of it now is that the US is still processing the horrific Feb. 14 at a Florida high school. But the US strikes that killed the Russian fighters was reported Feb. 13 by Bloomberg.



Both the US and Russia have been measured or even reticent in their comments, and the reported reason is that neither wants the battle to escalate into war. Cowen contends that the more we ignore such altercations, the more they will happen and that ignoring them to prevent war will lead to war.

This situation, the Washington Post reports, has direct links to a Russian oligarch recently indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the case of Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

The ‘massacre’ of the Syrian people

Colors of a disturbed world, Syria. (Credit: Cristian Iohan Ştefănescu via Flickr (CC))

Cowen’s “memory hole” is also swallowing up the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. Bashar al-Assad continues to attack his people. Hundreds are being killed in bombings of the Damascus suburb Ghouta. A Reuters headline sums up the crisis: “Syria’s Ghouta residents ‘wait to die’ as more bombs fall.” The European Union has called siege a massacre. This is just the carnage of a couple of weeks. Assad has been massacring his citizens since the civil war started in 2011. The official death toll is just under 500,000, though I suspect it’s higher.  The number goes up by dozens daily.

Russia on Thursday blocked a UN Security Council resolution that called for 30-day cease fire and an influx of humanitarian aid. The Russian ambassador said the reports of the death toll in Ghouta were “mass psychosis,” according to The Guardian.


[A Syrian Medic’s Account of His City’s Siege:
‘People Don’t Celebrate Birthdays Now’ (Time)]

First, pray. Do not let the world convince you that there is no power in prayer to the one true Creator God, the LORD of the Judeo-Christian Bible. In those prayers, also ask God how you can help. It may look like giving money to a humanitarian relief organization trying to work in Syria. It may be pestering government officials to find a way your nation can seriously and effectively address the massive loss of life. It may mean going to the Middle East and other areas to care for Syrians who managed to get out of harm’s way are now destitute in a refugee camp.

Do not allow yourself to forget the people of Syria. They are made in the image of God. Every murdered human destroys a visible facet of the face of God.

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