The Middle East may explode at any time. Nearly every day brings mounting tensions that are felt from the border guardhouse in the Holy Land to the White House in Washington." Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu might have spoken these words at the United Nations in September, when he warned the world about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
But that was not Netanyahu. Charles Ryrie, the renowned study Bible author, now 87, made this observation in Christianity Today in 1969. His comments have proven poignantly prescient.
In Syria, the Assad regime continues its brutal crackdown on democracy-seeking rebels. By some estimates, the death toll has exceeded 30,000 since the conflict began in March 2011. In Iran, 3,000 centrifuge machines are in continuous operation enriching uranium. Iran expects to add thousands of additional enrichment centrifuges, lending credence to Netanyahu's prediction that the Islamic state will have enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon by 2013. Throughout the region, Islamists have targeted Christians. In one recent episode in northern Sinai, nine families fled their homes after death threats.
There is a growing conviction that diplomacy, military intervention, regime change, free elections, foreign aid, trade accords, enhanced border security, and uncensored Internet access have not delivered lasting peace to this, the world's largest, longest-lasting hot zone.
Is there another way? Brian Cox, a California pastor and director of the Pacis Project in Faith Based Diplomacy, believes professional diplomats have all too often banished religion from the process of seeking peace. Cox said, "The basic paradigm is that religion is part of the problem."