As the long days of summer give way to autumn’s disappearing sun, and as frost greets each morning, Canadians retreat to the warmth of our homes and the sense of protection they provide. We shared many a summer night with family and friends, often shielding our too-short vacations from the anxieties induced by global current events. Yet the world’s war-torn strife remains.
Hamas rockets vs Israeli military might
The constant barrage of Hamas rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and that country’s overwhelming military response, has stopped with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Hamas’ refusal to accept an earlier peace accord resulted in over 2,000 Palestinian deaths and a devastated civilian infrastructure, which will take years to rebuild. All this death and destruction was precipitated by the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens, which, at a conference in Turkey, Hamas admitted to orchestrating to incite Israel’s retaliation. Palestine’s President Abbas now believes that the massive setback suffered by Hamas will sideline that group, and enable him to talk peace more openly with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Ukraine forces vs Russian military might
As summer progressed, Ukraine government forces appeared to quell the rebellion on its eastern border, encircling the rebels in their strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, following the arrival of a huge Russian convoy, the rebels staged a remarkable recovery. It appears the Russian trucks, which entered Ukraine without permission, unloaded more than the humanitarian supplies that Russia’s President Putin claimed had been in the delivery. The rebels, possibly with direct Russian military intervention (which Putin also denied), were able to fight back and re-secure their positions. Ukrainian President Poroshenko, recognizing that he did not have the resources to take on the Russian revived rebels, accepted a ceasefire orchestrated by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe. Putin welcomed the truce as it accepted the status quo: his supporters in control of significant parts of Ukraine that border Russia. If rebel and Russian troops, however, begin forging a land bridge to Crimea, which Russia annexed in the spring, the ceasefire will be in jeopardy.
NATO forces vs any potential aggressor
At NATO’s Summit in the peaceful setting of Wales, Russia was a priority. Concerned that Russia’s renewed militaristic posture threatens western European states, the 28 NATO members agreed to the Wales Summit Declaration, which includes a comprehensive plan to address common security issues. Central to the new NATO resolve is the development of a rapid response force, which would come into action within 48 hours of any foreign military incursion into one of the member states. Prime Minister Harper, representing Canada as a NATO member, endorsed the Declaration, and he continues to strongly condemn Russia’s actions. Although Canada hesitated to accept specific military budget spending targets, Canada did agree to provide $4 million to assist Ukraine military upgrades.
Immediately prior to the summit, President Obama visited Estonia, one of the three Baltic states next to emboldened Russia. Obama committed the United States and NATO to defending Estonia, abiding by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the basis of the NATO alliance, which calls on all members to come to the defense of any one member or more who are under attack. The Wales Summit reinforced this position. The ink was barely dry on the Declaration when Russia took an Estonian border official into custody at gun point. Russia insists he was a spy in their territory. Given recent actions, it could very well be another Putin provocation.
The Islamic State vs Western world
The Wales Declaration also took aim at increased insecurity in the Middle East, particularly how rapidly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) spread its barbaric control through a crescent-like swath from areas north of Baghdad in Iraq to Aleppo in northern Syria. This swath gave rise to the first name that this Sunni Muslim group was known by: ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. With its proclamation of the new Caliphate, it took on the more expansive ISIL title, claiming the lands of Iraq and the Levant, which historically includes a large portion of the Middle East, from southern Turkey through Syria to Jordon, Lebanon and Palestine. ISIL thrives on drawing combatants from all lands who are convinced they are called upon by Allah to rid Middle Eastern lands of all but devout Sunni Muslims. An ISIL battlefield song praises Muslim martyrs who ensure the “cross fades” from their lands. (Firsthand accounts of how ISIL has expanded can be viewed at Vice News; in addition to hearing the battlefield song, another segment shows how ISIL literally bull-dozed its way across the border into Syria unimpeded.)
Combatting ISIL has forced many countries to the battlefield even though deep-seated animosities remain within this loosely-knit alliance. ISIL’s movement into northern Iraq was stopped by the Kurdish Peshmerga (literally, “those who confront death”), who are also committed to an independent Kurdish state – one carved out of Iraq, making its northern neighbour, Turkey, nervous. The ISIL push south into Iraq was not stopped until the United States agreed to a strategic bombing campaign, halting the ISIL advance. The Iraqi government and army, dominated by Shia Muslims, which had suffered continuous losses and retreat in its early battles with ISIL, regrouped with significant support from Iran where Shia Muslims are the majority. The front in Syria is even more problematic. There the battle against ISIL is led by Syrian armed forces controlled by the government led by the dictator Bashar al-Assad, kept in power by ongoing support from Russia.
Back in our homes . . .
Autumn is here. We anticipate the bountiful harvest God will provide to our nation. In the face of dramatic world events, however, we can feel powerless, uncertain of God’s plan. It is in times like these that good Christian people must remain aware and involved. The Wales Declaration states that this is a “pivotal moment in Euro-Atlantic security.” In such pivotal moments, decisions will have repercussions for years and decades to come. We must pray, in all earnestness, that God will guide those in power, providing them the wisdom to move us all through these trying times, confidant the world is in his hands.