Pastor's Blog

Plymouth Brethren Still Impacting the World Posted 7.30.2015

This week I was sent a most interesting article about the current status of Christians in the Middle East.  It was written by Charles Krauthammer and it ought to make us think about our role in the world.  Here is my edited version.


Being a Christian in the Middle East is a tough proposition, even though Christianity predates Islam by a good 600 years.  Today, the most endangered people are the Christians of Syria. Four years ago they numbered about 1.1 million. By now 700,000 have fled. Many of those remaining in country are caught either under radical Islamist rule or in the crossfire between factions. As the larger Christian world looks on passively, their future, like the future of Middle Eastern Christianity will be determined by Iran, Hezbollah, the Assad dynasty, the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, various other local factions and by regional powers seeking advantage.


But Krauthammer points out that there is some hope.  On a limited scale but some hope.


One example is the work of the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund. It provided a flight to Poland for refugees and supports them for as long as 18 months as they try to remake their lives.


The person behind all this is Lord George Weidenfeld:  philanthropist, publisher, proud public Jew, lifelong Zionist and, the last person to fight a duel at the University of Vienna — with sabers, against a Nazi. (No one died.)


Weidenfeld, now 95, once invoked Torschlusspanik, “a German phrase which roughly translates as the ‘panic before the closing of the doors,’” to explain why “I’m a man in a hurry.” In context, the scale of his initial rescue is small. The objective is to rescue 2,000 families. Compared to the carnage in Syria wrought by the pitiless combatants — 230,000 dead, half the 22 million population driven from their homes — it’s not very many. But these are real people who will be saved. And for Weidenfeld, that counts.


Yet he has been criticized for rescuing just Christians. In fact, the U.S. government will not participate because the rescue doesn’t extend to Yazidis, Druze or Shiites.


This comes under the heading of no good deed going unpunished. It’s a rather odd view that because he cannot do everything, he should be admonished for trying to do something. If Weidenfeld were a man of infinite means, the criticism might be valid. As it is, he says rather sensibly, “I can’t save the world.” The Arab states, particularly the Gulf monarchies, are not without resources. With so few doing so little for so many, he’s doing what he can.


And for him, it’s personal. In 1938, still a teenager, he was brought from Vienna to London where the Plymouth Brethren took him in and provided for him. He never forgot. He is trying to return the kindness, he explains, to repay the good that Christians did for him 77 years ago. In doing so, he is not just giving hope and a new life to 150 souls, soon to be thousands. He has struck a blow for something exceedingly rare: simple, willful righteousness.


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