With the dawn of the New Year (2007) has come a sense of renewed optimism for better days. But already analysts are making dire forecasts.
The year 2006 ended on an inauspicious note. Consistent with the major headlines of the year, violence, needless deaths and suffering were the closing stories of 2006.
In July, the Middle East caught fresh fire when Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Islamist armed group, killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two in a cross-border attack. In retaliation, Israel subjected Lebanon to heavy aerial bombardment to which Hezbollah responded by firing Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. It was a war which, however indecisive its outcome, cost both sides dearly with civilians suffering the most.
Some pointed to the long arm of Iran behind the Israel-Hezbollah face-off, suggesting Tehran sought to use Hezbollah to open a front with the Jewish State. But whatever way one looks at it, it needs no telling that the Middle East is unlikely to retreat from the brink anytime soon.
With the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the continuing international row over Iran’s nuclear programme, things could get even worse.
But it wasn’t only geopolitics that excited tension during the year. Religion also generated considerable tension. From Jakarta to volatile Baghdad, Moslems took to the streets in protest against a speech by Pope Benedict XVI perceived to have equated Islam with violence. Eventually, the voluble protests elicited a response from the Vatican denying the Pope held any such views. Shortly afterwards, Pope Benedict visited Moslem-dominated Turkey where he called for closer dialogue between Islam and Christianity. A potentially long-drawn international religious row had been successfully defused.
But in Africa’s Somalia it was the victory cry of local Islamists thundering across the length and breadth of the war-torn country. Despite suspected American backing for the country’s numerous warlords, the Islamists had waged a successful campaign against them and won a decisive victory. Quickly, they set out to consolidate their power by constituting themselves into the Union of Islamic Courts. Sharia law became the law of the land.
The Somali transitional government, holed up in Baidoa, looked on helplessly, powerless to stop the Islamists. As it turned out, however, it was only a matter of time before certain regional and international interests intervened militarily.
In December, the Horn of Africa stirred as Ethiopian military jets took to the skies of Somalia and bombed the Islamists out of Mogadishu. The transitional national government is back in control, but observers warn that the dynamics of Somali politics could mean the final status quo has not been attained.
Despite all the phenomenal advances man has made in science and education, peace continues to elude us; it’s a most telling indictment of our human civilization. The Biblical dictum can only ring truer: “The way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:17).
Man’s way can never bring peace when our actions and inactions are often dictated by self-interests, hatred and greed.
No wonder, at the turn of the year 2007, our world sits on a time-bomb of unresolved crises. While the Middle East looks set to continue as the epicentre of global dissension and instability, the issues of North Korea’s nuclear armament, global terrorism and climate change threaten new dangers for the world.
And with America increasingly being viewed by some hostile states as a power on the wane, a subtle scramble for world leadership has ensued. Visions of an imminent end to Pax Americana (America’s role as the maintainer of world peace) have been fuelled by US ‘failures’ in such places as Iraq, Afghanistan and even on home soil.
Will this struggle for world power one day boil over into an open confrontation with the United States, currently the world’s only superpower? Will we see an escalation in terrorist activities this year and beyond? Should Israel strike at Iranian nuclear facilities, what will the consequences be?
The future looks bleak. Fear of terrorism—and of the unknown—has gripped millions around the world. According to a poll by Gallup International conducted in 63 countries, the overwhelming majority of the world’s peoples are worried about the threat of terror. Colombia and India lead, with 97% of their citizens expressing anxiety about terror, followed by Israel with 93%, and the US, UK, Peru, Indonesia, Russia and Spain with 80%. (“Poll: 93% of Israelis worry about terror” – Posted Nov. 21, 2006. www.jpost.com).
Paraphrased in today’s language, Luke 21:26 should read like any of the day’s headlines: “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.”
The world is desperately in need of Divine intervention. In a world filled with turmoil and leaders grope in vain for solutions to the myriad problems of mankind, only the Creator can put things right. That’s why He sent Jesus Christ, the Light of the world (John 8:12). He has the answer to the dilemmas that plague humanity today.
Sadly, most of the world has ignored this true Path to peace, preferring instead the path of confrontation, hatred and greed. But, however worse it gets, the Lord Jesus has promised not to forsake His faithful flock (Heb. 13:5-6). He’s with us through thick and thin—even as old crises escalate and new ones break out.
In the face of worsening conditions and threats, He exhorts us not to give in to fear and despair as the unbelieving world tends to do:
“For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
“Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let Him be your fear. And let Him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:11-13).
According to His unfailing promise, He’s with us unto the end of the world—at which time He’ll usher in a new beginning. Not even ‘wild’ animals will snarl at each other; there’ll be peace everywhere (Matt. 28:20; Isa.11:6-9).
The Prince of peace is His Name. He’s coming back with healing in His wings; He’ll bring back Paradise (Isai. 9:6-7; Mal. 4:2; Acts 3:19-21). Halleluiah!