Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Christians in Syria: between a rock and a hard place?

Christians in Syria apparently fared well under the Assad regime, as they were accorded a good measure of religious freedom. They have not been involved in the protest movement. Until last year there was a long record of peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians in Syria.  In fact Christians have been part of Syrian society since New Testament times. St. Paul stayed at Straight Street, Damascus. The Church of Antioch at one time was very influential.

Today Christians are a religious minority, perhaps representing about ten per cent of the population.  President Assad belongs to the Alawite Muslim minority in a land that is predominantly Sunni Muslim.  Some have suggested that this is one of the reasons why Christians have been sympathetically treated.

Now violence on the streets and heavy gunfire has prevented Christians attending church services.  In some areas there has been a growing anti-Christian hostility by militant Islamic factions.  Some church buildings have been burnt down. A number of Christians have been killed.  People are dying frequently on the streets in Syria.

Christian leaders fear that some Islamic militants wish to implement laws and practices that would threaten their liberty and make life far more difficult for Christians.  Syrian Christians therefore are concerned that a revolution and regime change could bring persecution and the implementation of harsh penalties and restrictions on them.

One Syrian sheikh in exile in Saudi Arabia has threatened all those who oppose the revolution and has said that they will be "torn apart, chopped up and fed to dogs".  This has been seen as an implicit threat to the Christian community.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Goalscoring goalkeepers in the Premiership

Tim Howard of Everton has joined the select few goalkeepers who have scored in the premiership and not from the penalty spot. Tim Howard's remarkable wind assisted goal came against Bolton on 4 January 2012 .   There have been three other goalkeepers who have scored: Peter Schmeichel (2001), Brad Friedel (2004), and Paul Robinson (2007).

Details about these goalscoring goalkeepers will no doubt feature in pub quiz questions.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The naughty schoolboy's prayer

Three naughty schoolboys were sent to the headmaster to be "severely disciplined".  They had broken certain school rules and the customary punishment was six of the best, six strokes of the senior cane across the buttocks. Each harsh stroke would usually land in the same place.  The pain of the cane would be more intense after each stroke.

While waiting outside the headmaster's office the fearful schoolboys wondered if there was any way of escaping their impending punishment.  They needed a miracle to avoid a thrashing.  They knew that pleas for mercy or promises of better behaviour would not change their punishment.

One of them, however, thought that prayer might help.  It could not do any harm at all.  But the boy only knew one prayer.

For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful.

Monday, 2 January 2012

How long will the bloodshed continue in Syria?

The Arab League monitors must know by now that the Syrian government security forces continue to kill innocent protesters in the streets.  How long will this murder and mayhem last?  Will these monitors make any difference?  Who knows?  Many Syrians seem to have little confidence in the monitors and any reports by them.

It has been said that Bashar al Assad and his regime are on the ropes, but they seem to be able to struggle on and to continue acts of brutality and oppression.  Thousands and thousands have boldly and courageously taken to the streets to let the monitors and the world know that many people are dying daily in Syria. 

Let us pray for peace in Syria.  May 2012 bring better days and more democratic ways.


River Stour