Children normally pray brief and sweet prayers before they go to bed. Friday evening, my seven-year-old daughter, a Lebanese, and her four-year-old cousin, an American, stood side by side, stretched up their hands, and prayed. It was neither a prayer to keep them safe during the night nor was it a prayer to bless Dad and Mom. It was not even addressed to God or Jesus, as prayers usually are.
It was a spontaneous prayer that came from pure hearts, mingled with politics and the current tragic events. "Condoleezza Rice," they said. "We are in trouble in Lebanon. Please save us!"
They repeated this prayer several times. When my daughter was told that prayers should be directed toward Jesus or God, she answered: "But Condoleezza is able to stop the war on us, is she not?"
Ms. Rice, would you hear and answer this prayer? It is not a prayer of just two children. It is a prayer of thousands of children who are displaced in Lebanon and thousands of children who are in shelters in Israel. It is a prayer of children who are physically and psychologically injured. It is a prayer that comes out of the rubble of southern Lebanon and Haifa.
I beg you not to respond by saying that circumstances are not right for a cease-fire or that it is not politically appropriate to do so. There is and will never be an acceptable excuse for the killing of civilians. The excuse that the U.S. is waiting for a "sustainable solution" without calling for an immediate cease fire is nonsense. It is only a green light for Israel to continue its atrocities in Lebanon. For stopping a war, for holding a fight, for checking the destruction of homes and livelihoods, for peace and negotiation, the time is always appropriate.
Sunday morning, I woke up to the news that an Israeli air strike hit a residential building used as a shelter in the southern Lebanese town of Qana, killing and wounding more than 65 people, including 30 infants and young children. According to tradition, Qana is the village where Jesus Christ performed his first miracle by turning water into wine (John 2).
Now I hear of fellow Christians who enjoy seeing the turning of water into blood in the name of end-time prophecy. Their call should rather be to turn water into wine of gladness, peace, and life. Are we looking for the presence of Christ in Lebanon and Israel or for the presence of U.S. smart bombs?
I recently received an e-mail from a friend who lives in Washington, D.C., informing me that a sign displayed in front of an independent evangelical church simply states: "Go Israel!" This news came as I learned that the father of one of the six-year-old students at our school had been killed in an air strike as he went to get bread for his family. For the sake of the children's tears, for the sake of the children's blood in this terrible war, for the sake of the children's smiles, please say and write: "Go for peace!" "Go for reconciliation!" "Go for love!" Go for a cease-fire!"
Ms. Rice, I heard recently that you are an ardent evangelical. I have always believed that evangelicals are peacemakers. They are those who hold fast to the gospel of peace and reconciliation. Please answer the above children's prayer. Help me at least not to lose faith in calling myself an evangelical.
Until such prayers and requests are answered, we continue at J.L. Schneller Institute in West Beqaa to pray and to work for peace. We continue providing care to hundreds of displaced people who took shelter at our institution and to others in neighboring areas. Please keep us and all of Lebanon in your prayers.
Riad Kassis is executive director and chaplain at the J.L. Schneller School in West Bekaa, Lebanon. He is also lecturer in Old Testament Studies at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut and formerly at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Beirut Lebanon. Those interested in supporting the Schneller School can contact its partners in Germany (EMS- Maurer@ems-online.org) and United Kingdom (BibleLands- Nigel.Edward-Few@biblelands.org.uk)
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