Dear Friends,

Thank you for praying with us this week for Elias Ghazal from Lebanon.

The Republic of Lebanon is bordered by Syria to the north and the east, Israel to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Once settled by the Ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians, the region later flourished as a Christian center. Today, Lebanon is home to nearly 7 million people, of whom 61% follow Islam, 34% Christianity, and 5% Druze, an esoteric religion that arose in the twelfth century during the Arab Muslim Conquests. In recent years, thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, resulting in overcrowding and rising tensions. As the Church in Lebanon reaches out to displaced Syrians, many are also coming to faith in Christ.

Elias is pursuing a PhD in International Relations at Lancaster University in the UK. His research focuses on the political use of religious violence in order to advance sustainable peacebuilding alternatives for the Middle East. While engaged in his studies, Elias also serves as Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Association for Theological Education (MENATE) and as Programs Manager for the Centre on Religion and Global Affairs. Previously, he taught at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, a Vital SustainAbility partner school, and also directed programs at the seminary‚Äôs Institute of Middle East Studies. Elias and his wife Joyce have three children: Lara (6), Karl (4), and Sophia (1).
 
Elias shares the following message:

Hello, 
 
Thank you in advance for your prayers.
 
I am halfway through my third year at Lancaster University. My research explores the capacity of religious leaders in the Lebanese context to bring an end to sectarianism, which has plagued the country since its independence. 
 
Sectarianism manipulates religious identity for political gain. In Lebanon, the governance system is based on power sharing between Christians and Muslims. In theory such a system underwrites coexistence, but in practice it is a recipe for division and inter-communal conflict. 
 
As community gatekeepers, clergy have been framed as part of the problem, but I am investigating how they can be part of the solution. I hope my research can contribute to peacebuilding in Lebanon and to creating an environment that encourages Gospel growth.    
 
Since the civil war (1975-1990), Lebanon has been trying to rebuild. Successive governments managed to establish a semblance of peace, but it was built on deceit and corruption. In October 2019, major anti-government protests filled the streets to demand change. In the aftermath, unemployment skyrocketed, the economy collapsed, and the currency lost its value. 
 
The COVID-19 outbreak only worsened the situation. Recent estimates indicate that more than 75% of the population is in need of assistance. The government is scrambling to contain the situation, but unfortunately there is no good end in sight. Lebanon is projected to experience more sanctions, austerity, and isolation that will devastate many vulnerable groups.
 
Pray for the Church in Lebanon
 
The Evangelical Church in Lebanon is trying to find its voice amid this uncertainty. Proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples under these circumstances, and at a time when the Church cannot gather, come with many challenges. 
 
I would appreciate it if you could pray for pastors and ministry leaders to navigate these unchartered waters with wisdom. 
 
Pray for Christians that they may stand firm in these trying times, and trust that God is good and sovereign. 
 
Pray for Christians to be prophetic and courageous as they engage the political, economic, and social situation. 
 
Pray that God may use this suffering to draw people to himself.    
 
Pray for My Family
 
I am in the UK with my wife Joyce and our three kids: Lara, Karl, and Sophia. We are thankful to be together, and to have found a church where we are growing in knowledge and obedience. 
 
Kindly pray for us to have the patience and endurance to handle homeschooling and to keep the children active. 
 
Pray for Joyce as she is working on a certificate in biblical counseling. 
 
Pray for me to balance family, work, and studies. The writing process is demanding, and it requires stretches of time that are not always available in university accommodations with young kids.   
 
Regards, 
 
Elias Ghazal