Lebanese Baptists call for prayer, express anger at bomb attack

Baptists in Lebanon are appealing to the worldwide Baptist family to pray for the Middle Eastern country in the wake of a bomb blast on October 19. At least eight persons were killed, including Wissam al-Hassan, the country's head of intelligence and his assistant. An estimated 110 more were injured.

Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) and a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA), said the situation in Lebanon "continues to be fragile with heightened emotions." While things seemed to have calmed down after the bombing, he expressed anger and dismay at what had occurred. "We feel sad, outraged, afraid, and angry. As humans we cannot help but have these feelings," Costa stated. "We thought our country had turned a new page, yet once again evil hands are back to haunt us."

Costa said the bombing occurred during peak hour "when children were returning home from school, many employees returning from their work, or people were running errands." As a result, "the level of destruction is unbelievable; families lost loved ones, casualties are lying in hospitals, with many in critical condition." He said the situation "is [a]catastrophe especially that all of these families belong to the lower middle class or middle class and they are 90 percent not insured."

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said, "We are severely disappointed that the relative peace Lebanon has experienced in recent years has been shattered by such a wanton attack without regard to the sanctity of life. Lebanon has opened its arms to citizens of other countries, such as Syria, that have experienced their own turmoil in recent times. Lebanese, including Baptists, have practiced the Christian virtues of hospitality and charity in the face of their own challenges and difficulties. It is incumbent upon the rest of us to remember the country at this time."

The bombing is believed to be part of the fallout and spillover from the civil war in Syria, which shares a border with Lebanon. Thousands of Syrian refugees have been pouring into Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries since the Syrian civil war started in 2011. Al-Hassan, the head of the intelligence branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, was believed to be the target.

The attack occurred in Ashrafieh, an area of the capital Beirut that is mostly inhabited by Christian families. It is the first major incident in Lebanon in recent years. The country previously experienced years of turmoil. It went through a protracted civil war between 1975 and 1990, resulting in an estimated 120,000 fatalities, many thousands injured, and tens of thousands displaced.

In February 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion. The assassination triggered the Cedar Revolution, during which demonstrators demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. In July 2006, a 34 day war broke out between Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Israel that killed almost 1,200 Lebaneseand about 160 Israelis.

The country has experienced relative calm since that war ended on August 14 of that year.

Costa asked for prayers for peace in Lebanon, that the Lord may keep the country and people safe from all evil plots and for families that were directly affected by the blast. He asked Baptists to remember Lebanon's national and political leaders, for them to learn to coexist and work for the best interest of the country irrespective of their beliefs and despite their differences.

Costa expressed concern for the safety of students as they commute to and from school and for the safety of Baptist staff. He asked that prayers be offered for Baptists in Lebanon "that we may continue in the work that the Lord has called us for in Lebanon and the region, with all enthusiasm no matter what."

The Convention of the Evangelical Baptist Churches in Lebanon, a member organization of the BWA, has approximately 1,600 members in 32 churches. LSESD, which is independent of but affiliated with the convention, operates and manages a number of Baptist institutions, including a publishing house, a theological college, a school, and a relief agency. LSESD has been a major BWA partner in relief efforts in the region.

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 24, 2012