These TimesVol. 24 No. 2 | Jan-Feb 2014
CHILDHOOD—THE GREATEST CASUALTY OF WAR
More than a million of the 2.2 million Syrian refugees are children. Scattered throughout Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and North Africa, most live in makeshift camps filled with squalor, conflict, and fear. The emotional aftermath of war and violence has pushed some children into acts of aggression and vandalism; others sit silent and unresponsive. 10 percent show serious post-traumatic stress disorders.
Despite efforts to educate refugee children, the majority do not have stable school options. Without education, they face a bleak future. Some have been recruited by Syrian rebels to return as soldiers. “Tragedy by Numbers,” TIME, November 28, 2013.
The social wounds of the Syrian conflict will leave long-term effects throughout the Middle East and will challenge generations of peace builders. A generation of children will grow up emotionally scarred with few opportunities to reach their potential. When a nation loses the potential of one generation, the generation robbed cannot pass on the fruits of peace and stability.
There is no lasting peace in this world. Jesus predicted that war and conflict would escalate until His return. “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Matthew 24:6, emphasis added.
But the place Jesus is preparing for His people will be one of peace and safety forever: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” Micah 4:3, 4.
INDIVIDUAL RELIGIOUS RIGHTS IN JEOPARDY
Homeschooling your children is illegal in Germany. In 2010, a Christian homeschooling family fled persecution in Germany and was granted US asylum. They must now return to Germany, “because not all German Christians believe that homeschooling is mandated by their faith,” ruled US Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012. Holder also agreed with a German court’s argument that “banning homeschooling teaches tolerance of diverse views.” In 2013, an appeals court agreed, adding “the freedom to determine the education of one’s children is not a fundamental right.”
Holder, who was chosen by Obama in 2009 to head the Justice Department, expresses the Obama Administration’s legal ideals. A closer look at Holder’s treatment of this case demonstrates the Administration’s wide departure from previous protections for religious liberty. Michael Farris of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSDLA) summarizes what this case means for religious liberty: “The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear in the past that religious freedom is an individual right. Yet our current government does not seem to understand this. They only think of us as members of groups and factions. It is an extreme form of identity politics that directly threatens any understanding of individual liberty.”
In 2008, the Romeikes fled to the US after being threatened with $10,000 worth of fines, imprisonment, and the possible loss of their children for removing them from German public schools to homeschool them. The Romeikes are both university-trained teachers. In 2010, they became the first people granted asylum in the US due to being persecuted for homeschooling. Despite losing the appeal in 2013, the HSLDA garnered 100,000 required signatures to appeal directly to the White House to “Grant Permanent Legal Status to Persecuted German Homeschool Family.”
The White House declined to address the request because “it was already before the courts.” HSDLA then appealed to the US Supreme Court, which has recently ordered the White House to respond to the request. “Supreme Court Orders White House to Respond to Romeike Petition,” The Washington Times, November 27, 2013.
THE STRONGEST TYPHOON IN RECORDED HISTORY
Typhoon Haiyan, classed as a super-typhoon, killed more than 5,200 people in its path across the Philippines. More than 1,600 people are still unaccounted for, and the body count is still expected to climb. The category five storm with one-minute sustained winds of 196 miles per hour (315k/hr) was the strongest recorded cyclone to make landfall, surpassing the 190 miles per hour sustained winds of Atlantic hurricane Camille in 1969. The strength of the typhoon (hurricane) has sparked a discussion about whether or not to add a new category to the Saffir-Simpson five-category hurricane scale.
Haiyan was one of the Philippines’ deadliest natural disasters ever, and the deadliest typhoon ever to hit this nation prone to typhoons. An estimated four million people are homeless. Lack of food and other basic necessities creates more difficulties.
The typhoon generated tsunami-like storm surges and flattened dozens of towns across the central Philippines on November 8, 2013. Tacloban, the capital city of Leyte, was catastrophically destroyed. The only deadlier natural disaster in the Philippines was a tsunami in 1976 that killed between 5,000 and 8,000 people. “Typhoon Haiyan: Philippine Death Toll Rises Above 5,200,” The Telegraph, November 23, 2013.
The super-typhoon was devastating to coconut farmers. Coconut exports average $1.5 billion annually. While coconut trees rarely lose battles with typhoons because of the way they are structured, Haiyan destroyed an estimated 15 million coconut trees out of a nationwide total of 300 million. Eighty percent of the people in the hardest-hit islands are dependent on the coconut industry for a livelihood. Though many of the farms will recover, the damage has been enormous. The industry in some regions could take a decade to recover. “Typhoon Haiyan Deals Blow to Coconut Farmers in Philippines,” The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2013.
Are natural disasters getting worse? As oceans warm, weather is becoming more volatile. Jesus predicted that these events would be “the beginning of sorrows [labor pains].” Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8, margin. As any mother who has given birth knows, what starts out as minor labor pains becomes more frequent and intense as labor progresses. Christ encouraged us to remember that these events signify that His return is growing closer. He also reminds us that His true followers will reach out in acts of sympathy and mercy to those affected by these terrible disasters. Matthew 25:34–40.
THE POST ANTIBIOTIC ERA
Since 2011, health care professionals have been unable to stop the epidemic of gonorrhea caused by bacteria that are resistant to nearly every antibiotic available. Such sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are now “more infectious than AIDS” due to lack of effective medication. Professor Cathy Ison, head of the National Reference Laboratory for Gonorrhea in the UK, told the BBC, “There is a possibility that if we don’t do something, then it could become untreatable by 2015.” “Sex ‘Superbug’ Feared to be More Infectious than AIDS,” The Daily Mail, May 5, 2013.
We no longer have antibiotics to treat dangerous drug-resistant superbugs, warns US Center for Disease Control expert Dr Arjun Srinivasan, and there is currently no solution in sight. “We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t….”
How did we get to this stage? According to Srinivisan, we set ourselves up for antibiotic resistance because we’ve greatly overused them in humans, agriculture, and livestock; and in overusing these antibiotics, we’re running out of them. “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria,” Frontline, October 22, 2013.
God promises to protect His people from destruction and pestilence (plagues) if they dwell in His secret place of the heavenly sanctuary. Psalm 91. Yet, we cannot dwell there if we are unwilling to live in obedience to His law. While we cannot control every bacteria in our world, we can avoid STDs by shunning fornication and adultery in all their forms.
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