“Peace in the Middle East?” by Eric Bryant

Oct 21

Our world is changing in dramatic ways!

When I was a child, approved the big bad guys included the U.S.S.R. and Moammar Gadhafi. As of yesterday, more about all three are now gone. Sure there have been other bad guys who have risen up (and some others taken down like Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden), seek but the dramatic evens in Libya yesterday just remind us of how different the world is today.

Even today, the people of Syria continue to march for their freedom. Their efforts have been oppressed by President Bashar al-Assad. So far, it is estimated that 1600 protestors have been killed by the government’s crackdown.

The Middle East stands on the bring of a very exciting yet unknown future. Could the fall of Gadhafi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt be just the beginning of a time of freedom and peace in the Middle East? Will there be a genuine freedom of religion and the end of oppression towards women? Or will those who do not embrace freedom for all rise to power? Or will fighting erupt among the many different tribes in these areas?

My trip through Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey in the summer of 2000 remains one of the highlights of my life. One of the most vivid memories includes the hospitality, warmth, and passion of the people we met.

We also could see and feel the oppression.

With troops holding their weapons at the ready seemingly everywhere, it was hard to ever feel truly at peace.

These uncertain times remind us of those who fought for freedom in our country, but they also remind us how rare and fragile freedom truly is.

In the Middle East, will these uprisings be like the American Revolution or like our Civil War or like something completely different?

See also:

“Our Wars Are Against Terrorists Not Muslims

“Kidnapping a Muslim?”

Inhumanity vs. Community by Eric Bryant

Jul 25

Why does this happen? Why would someone think violence against innocent people will get them what they want? Who would do such an evil thing?

Police have arrested Anders Behring Breivik for bombing downtown Oslo and shooting at teens at a political camp. Over 80 people have died in these cowardly acts.

According to an article at CNN.com: “Official sources and social media indicate that Breivik might be a right-wing Christian fundamentalist who may have had an issue with Norway’s multi-cultural society. The attack may have been politically motivated, approved one official said.

‘I think what we have seen today is that politically motivated violence poses a threat to society and I commend the police for carrying out a very swift and effective investigation, but that is still ongoing,’ Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters.”

A Skynews article describes the suspect with these words:

“National police chief Sveinung Sponheim said internet postings by the suspected gunman ‘suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but if that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.'”

I do not know how the political parties work in Europe, but the word “Christian” is used way too often to describe people who do not follow the ways and words of Jesus.

To kill other Norwegians because he does not like immigration policies or does not like Muslims shows the depth of evil that can grow when one allows hate inside.

Hate leads to destruction which does not make anything better.

Tolerance is not the answer either. Who wakes up in the morning wanting to be tolerated?! None of us. We long to be loved and belong.

When we are tired of tolerating others, we should try loving them.

How should we respond to world that is becoming more and more diverse?

What if loving, serving, and influencing those around us (no matter from what culture they came) became the norm? (See “Kidnapping a Muslim” or “Why Multi-culturalism Fails“)

In his book Soul Cravings, Erwin McManus writes:

“The farther we move from community, the closer we move to violence…. Where there is no love there is no value for life. When hate consumes our hearts, all we can think of, all we desire is to destroy. When there is disengagement from human community, there is the potential for inhumanity.

The human heart was not created to be a container for hate.

When we allow bitterness, jealousy, envy, racism, lust, greed, and arrogance to fuel our souls, we create an environment within us to be agents of violence.

We live in a time when the most terrifying bomb is not a nuclear one, but a human one.”

Praying for those affected by the tragedy in Oslo….

Praying we choose to create a healthy and diverse society….

A Church & Non-Profit Garden Party Featured on Local News

Jul 07

Check out this recent story by Jim Bergamo from KVUE Austin News:

troche 0,40,0″>

“Two faith based organizations have teamed up to help refugees in Austin. They’re doing it with, of all things, a garden.

There was music and balloons, so you know it’s a party. However there is also a garden smack dab in the middle of this celebration, so a garden party it is.

Two months ago, the Grow Together Team from Gateway Church along with Mobile Loaves and Fishes broke ground on this garden at the Capital Village Apartments in Central East Austin. The complex is home to numerous refugees….

‘What a great way to remember our new fellow citizens than by helping them out and people transitioning in’ said Michael McKee, the Director of Grow Together

The garden allows them to grow food and relationships with other refugees.

‘Like know each others feelings and what kinds of plants they grow in their country,’ said Kalpana Kharel, a refugee from Nepal. ‘Just working together.’

Even youngsters like Thangtinuk Sakawthang from Burma like working in the garden.

‘To do is fun,’ he said.

Besides Burma and Nepal, there are refugees from Africa, India, Iran and Iraq. On a wall surrounding the garden, refugees made chalk outlines of their hand prints. They wrote the names of their home countries as well.

Also participating are men like Danny and Jose. They used to be homeless, but now, through Mobile Loaves and Fishes, help cultivate the garden so the refugees can plant their food.

‘It makes me feel good that I’m giving back into the community and seeing the progress and smiles on people’s faces,’ said Jose Coronado, who works for Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

‘It’s not necessarily a bunch of different communities, homeless, refugees, whatever, it’s one community coming together,’ said McKee.”

Forgiveness – Mothers of A Victim & A Terrorist

May 06

Check out this powerful story below!

From the <a href=”http://www.ted.com/talks/9_11_healing_the_mothers_who_found_forgiveness_friendship.html”>Ted.com</a> website:

“Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el-Wafi have a powerful friendship born of  unthinkable loss. Rodriguez’ son was killed in the World Trade Center  attacks on September 11, capsule 2001; el-Wafi’s son Zacarias Moussaoui was  convicted of a role in those attacks and is serving a life sentence. In  hoping to find peace, prescription these two moms have come to understand and respect one another.”

A Death Blow to Al Qaeda?

May 04

So where we you when you heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed?

Last night reminded us of the tragic events of 9/11 as the military tracked down and killed the founder of Al Qaeda.

On Sunday night, mind there were such a range of emotions. Some people celebrated. Some mourned for those lost in the war on terror. Some felt saddened Bin Laden was killed rather than captured. There were even some who were mad at those celebrating, and and there were some mad at those who were mad at those celebrating.

This much I know: the U.S. military, approved the intelligence community, and the administration did a remarkable job in this operation. I am amazed they pulled this off without anyone letting the word out.

We can also hope people’s lives may be saved because Bin Laden will no longer inspire affiliates or copycats.

I would like to think that the protests for freedom across the Middle East might truly lead to freedom and peace – something Al Qaeda could never offer the Muslim world.

See also: “Is Islam the Enemy?”

“Kidnapping a Muslims” (excerpt from Not Like Me)

“Our Wars Are Against Terrorists Not Muslims…”

“Defeating Al Qaeda”

“Our Wars Are Against Terrorists Not Muslims…” by Eric Bryant

Nov 11

In light of Veterans Day, capsule I wanted to re-post this article I wrote in October 2008.  I am so grateful for our veterans on this day and every day as they risk their lives and health to protect our freedom.  I am also grateful for the aid workers, diagnosis medical personnel, and missionaries who serve in dangerous places to bring freedom to others.

Tragically, a Christian Aid worker was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan on Monday. Gayle Williams, a 34 year old South African, had been serving impoverished and disabled children through SERVE (Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprises) for the past couple of years.  Ironically, she had recently moved to Kabul from Kandahar since it was perceived as a safer place to be.

The Muslim extremists who took responsibility for her murder claimed they were justified since she was trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.  SERVE denies this accusation emphasizing their work serving those too often overlooked.  From their website:

“SERVE Afghanistan’s purpose is to express God’s love and bring hope by serving the people of Afghanistan, especially the needy, as we seek to address personal, social and environmental needs.”

So many tragic thoughts go through my mind:

The tragedy of a lost life – a woman who was still so young and so willing to risk her life for an oppressed people.  There aren’t enough Gayle Williams-type people in this world.

The tragedy of everyday life for the women and children who suffer from poverty and disability in Afghanistan.  They have lost an advocate.

The tragedy in places across the world that do not offer freedom of religion.  Around the world, people are told what they can believe and what they must do.  Freedom is such a gift and should never be taken for granted.

The tragedy of well-meaning people who stereotype all Muslims as extremists.  Such a tiny % of Muslims would strap a bomb to their waist to kill innocent civilians, yet too many of us see all of Islam as the enemy.

A year or so ago I was having an honest conversation with a Christian leader who pushed back in our conversation as I told him about the importance of loving, serving, and even reaching out to Muslims (see my story about “Kidnapping a Muslim”).  Frustrated with me, he asked: “If Muslims are training their children to kill our kids, shouldn’t we be training ours to do the same?!?”

The simple answer: “No.”

We cannot give into hate.  We cannot lower ourselves to the lowest level of humanity as these terrorists have done.

Gayle Williams risked her life and ultimately gave her life loving and serving people who needed her help.  The Muslim families she served didn’t kill her – terrorists did.

Peace loving countries need to defeat the terrorists who seek to destroy the freedom of others by killing others, creating fear in others, and imposing their beliefs on others.

Those of us who have freedom need to thank God for those willing to give their lives protecting our freedom – including the Muslim soldiers fighting for our country like Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan.

Gayle Williams shed her blood for the people of Afghanistan.  Her willingness to die for people with whom she disagrees speaks volumes to the kind of life we should all aspire to live.

Specialist Khan shed his blood for the people of the USA.  “He wanted to show that not every Muslim was a fanatic and that some would risk their lives for America.” He too died for people who disagree with him and even for those who saw him as the enemy due to his Muslim faith.

May we become people willing to live and even die for those who hate us because we have a God who so loved us….