There is so much that could be said today particularly in light of recent news. I’ve been asked my opinion several times since Friday on the attacks in Paris and why that takes the limelight over other radical Islamic Attacks. People have asked if I’m mad that Paris got more attention than the attack in Garissa Kenya in April this year. I’ve also seen many posts of opinions out there and using Paris Attacks as a platform to say this or that. I have to be honest with you and say I don’t have the right answer. What I can say is that people are hurting right now and lives across the globe are being taken at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists. 147 people died in Garissa Kenya in April at the hands of Al Shabaab which yes is close to the number killed in Paris (although wounded count is higher in Paris). I was grieved then and I changed my Facebook picture to a flag of Kenya with a scripture as I also did in 2013 for the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi. I was close to terrorism bombings and killings last summer while in Kenya that never made the news. In January 2,000+ died in west Africa at the hands of Boko Haram while 12 died in Paris. I wrote about that then to hopefully being attention to what other countries were facing. In Indonesia in recent weeks, 8,000 Christians have been displaced at the hands of jihadists there and threats of imams. ISIS’ attack both in parts of the Middle East this week and Paris have killed numerous lives from many countries and religions, including Muslims. The news reel goes on and on across the globe of devastations even unrelated to terrorism and persecution. We have every opportunity to be informed if we want to be.
Charge To Christians
I saw a few posts by Christians saying statements like “there’s nothing you or I can do about ISIS” or biased posts about the French and many posts about other scenarios like I mentioned above. While I may not have the most eloquent phrases to say to contradict these statements, I must say I disagree with some of it. If you’re a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, there IS something that you can do. You can pray. And by that I don’t mean just cute words, but truly carry the heart of God to pray His will over the lost, the hurting, and yes, even the radical jihadists. Because without Christ, even the “best” of people will spend eternity in suffering far worse than anything we could imagine. God is moving across the globe as a result of prayer and actions to obey Him. Lives are being changed and we can partner with Him wherever we are. If you as a believer have biased or prejudices against certain people groups like the French or Muslims, I encourage you to let God heal that area of your heart. His will is that NONE should perish but that ALL should come to repentance. Lastly, we are to “mourn with those who mourn” and France is mourning right now. Yes so is Lebanon and many others, so let’s stand with them too. If you want to pray for more than just Paris, go for it! There’s never an end to praying for the nations, but let’s not decide France’s pain is any less or shouldn’t be recognized. That country needs Jesus like anywhere else and here’s why.
The Real Paris
When I was in Paris for the first time this summer, I was blown away and not just by the beauty of the city. We had a couple of days to explore, but did ministry as well in a place I’d long been burdened for. I must have met people from at least 30 countries. I met people from all over in West Africa, Romania, Russia, Czech Republic, and Bangladesh to name a few. There were language barriers for some who don’t speak French and many were doing things like selling packages nuts in the subway to provide for their families in this strange new place like a man named Luten. My heart broke that all I could do was smile at him and buy a 2nd bag of salted almonds from him. I wanted to encourage, bring life and hope through Jesus, but he spoke such limited French. Paris is home to over 18 million people and is one of the largest urban centers in the world. My heart broke as I was there in a place where I’ve never seen such diversity and backgrounds before. All the French or Parisians we met were so kind and hospitable. Many were beyond gracious with me and my limited french vocabulary and celebrated my attempts to speak their language all the while assuming Stephen was European and I, clearly American haha. I can’t speak for all French people as I can’t for all Americans either, but I can speak God’s heart and it’s that He loves them all. It’s not just a place of fancy architecture, rich sophisticated people and a romantic tourist destination. It’s a city where people from all over have gathered and I stand with France and I grieve with them in their loss. A massive city filled with the nations is now gripped in terror and fear. My prayer for Paris is that they’d be healed and set free from fear and become a city full of the light of Christ and a place of worship for the nations.
Yes Paris hit more media attention, because it’s a “1st world country” and as bad as it sounds to admit, it wasn’t just terrorism somewhere “over there” where specifically the average American can’t relate to. It’s in our backyard so to speak, an ally, and it shook more people here in the USA. Many people have taken vacations there and strolled through Paris’ lovely streets. It was a place they could imagine themselves sitting at that cafe sipping an evening coffee with friends or attending a concert (maybe not death metal…). It’s different than the college in Kenya and very different from the awful Attacks in Lebanon. Is it right that those are often brushed aside and overlooked? No, absolutely not, but as we’ve clearly demonstrated in the USA, we’d rather discuss the color of a dress or coffee cups as our headlines. I say that with ALL the possible love in my heart for my country. But really, that’s what sells and that’s what grabs attention, not talking about (blank) far away country.
The Encouraging News
I’m encouraged in the fact that despite some criticism, the trending hashtag was #prayforParis. It doesn’t bother me one bit that people are praying for Paris. I’m thrilled that many people who maybe haven’t prayed in years or posted anything about prayer on social media jumped right in to unite in prayer. If praying for the nations and the world at large begins by praying for Paris, let it be so! If this attack then begins to open people’s eyes and hearts to search out what’s really taking place in the world then great! I don’t see any harm in everyone uniting around Paris and praying.
While other news might have been brushed aside, maybe eyes will be open and ready to pray for other places and situations. Maybe hearts will unite around other calls to prayer. Maybe hardened hearts will be more open to partnering with God’s heart for prayer. I sure hope so because the world needs more light in this dark hour. Maybe the next time radical Islamic Attacks wipe out innocent people or persecute Christians, the church at large will stop and pray and be vigilant to stand in prayer. Maybe it’ll be such a culture that we’ll all change our Facebook pictures to a globe with the prayer emoji ?? instead of arguing about it ;-) I don’t know, but I do know prayer is needed and it is the means by which God shares His heart with us to reach a very hurting world with the hope of Jesus Christ.
**I’m a work in progress on prayer and partnering with God’s heart for the nations. I have so much to learn, but a practical tip I use and would encourage you to do is to buy a world map. I have a large laminated one I bought for $10 at Mardel. Place it on your wall or print a 8&1/2″ x 11″ paper for your desk or bathroom mirror. Begin to ask God’s heart over certain regions or countries or cities. Listen and joy down prayer points. Look up scriptures on prayer and the nations. Ask God what your part to play is in the Great Commission. God may lay a nation or a city or even a people group on your heart that you’d never expected. Even if an event is overlooked by man, it is never overlooked by God.