NEST Fall 2014 newsletterWritten by Dr. George Sabra, President, NEST
December 24, 2014
Shall We Leave or Shall We Stay?
Over 26 centuries ago the prophet Jeremiah lived through momentous political and military events: regional wars and struggles over who controls our region of the world from Babel (Iraq) to Egypt. The future of his country and his own future were most uncertain. Jeremiah himself was in jail, as we read in the 32nd chapter of his book. King Zedekiah had thrown him in prison because Jeremiah opposed the king’s policies. The king believed that his political allies would come to save him and his people; Jeremiah believed that no one will come to save them for the Lord was disciplining His people because they had done evil in his sight since their youth.
Jeremiah is in prison, and the whole country is boiling. The situation is desperate. It becomes clear very quickly that there is no hope; the allies won’t come, and the enemy is besieging the city. People are scared, anxious, and panicking. External threat and internal corruption, lack of vision and failed leadership. Foreign forces are tightening their grip on the country, and the people are eager to flee, for they see no future for themselves or their children in the land of their birth. They take what they can, and what they cannot take, they try to sell.
The imprisoned Jeremiah, however, in the midst of all this turmoil, calmly and in a relaxed way, conducts a real estate operation: he buys his emigrating cousin’s property. People are leaving the land, but Jeremiah is investing in it. People think he is mad; he is going against the stream; all indications are that there is no future, but Jeremiah does what he does on the basis of the word of God which had promised: “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” Relying on God’s word, and trusting in God’s promise that there will be a future, Jeremiah acts against the seemingly inevitable direction of history and of political events, and binds himself more to the land of his birth through the concrete, but also symbolic, act of purchasing property.
The situation in our region is not very different from that of Jeremiah’s times. The destiny of Lebanon and the whole region is uncertain. There is war, there is struggle, religious and political; violence of the ugliest kind is rampant. The whole region seems to be at the tip of a volcano. Many people here and around us are seeking to emigrate, especially the Christians, who see no future for themselves and their children in this region anymore. Look at what is happening to the Christians of Iraq and Syria, and what many Lebanese Christians think will happen to them next. Is there a Jeremiah for our situation?
We, Christians of the Middle East, are called to be the Jeremiah of the 21st century in this region - to act and plan with the goal of remaining here to witness to the Word of God, which should never disappear from this part of the world. We are called to be the Jeremiah of these times by continuing to run institutions, nay also to set up new ones– educational, social, medical, cultural, and religious, that serve human beings in this region of the world, bring people closer to each other, remove boundaries and prejudices, and foster the spirit of tolerance, respect, freedom and equality, and above all love.
It is in this spirit that N.E.S.T. commenced the new academic year– in the spirit of trust in the promise of God in spite of the fact that what we see around us does not look promising. Not only are all our study programs running as usual, but we are also investing, like Jeremiah, in our seminary. The Board of Managers has recently approved the plans of the Administration to complete the 8th floor of our building to enlarge our dormitory space for students, guests, and visiting professors and pastors. We place our trust in God; we hope in the God who promised to be with us till the end of days, and we go forth to plant hope in our country and region, each in his or her own field and institution, to bear witness to the saving, healing, consoling and uplifting Word of God, so that “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”
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