TARTUS (Christian Examiner) – A Syrian Baptist pastor whose congregation has so far escaped Islamic State militants sent an urgent prayer request this morning about the "absence of solutions" for the "kidnapping, slaughtering and immigration" of Christians and others at the hands of brutal terrorists.
"Dearly beloved in Christ ... pray for us," the pastor asked Nabeeh Abbassi, a Jordanian national and friend, in the United States for a year-long sabbatical.
Dr. Abbassi, an evangelical scholar and pastor, said the prayer request came from a Syrian pastor whose church is in the Mediterranean port city of Tartus, Syria.
The request comes amid news 150 Assyrian Christians were abducted by IS according to a Reuter's report Tuesday afternoon citing Christian Syrian activists.
Women and elderly were among those kidnapped by militants, according to one account which was verified by a Syrian Christian group representing several NGO's.
Initially, British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported up to 90 Assyrian Christians were abducted when IS carried out raids this morning west of Hasaka, a city mainly held by Kurds.
SOHR also said opposition forces had had some success against the jihadists, claiming 14 terrorists were killed "by U.S. led coalition air strikes" on IS locations east of Tal Hamis over the weekend.
The capture of the 90 Assyrian Christians comes just weeks after IS terrorists beheaded 21 Coptic Christians in Libya. That atrocity led to an international outcry and military responses from Egypt and Libya.
Specifically asking for believers to remember 2 Corinthians 1:11, the Syrian pastor listed eight *requests:
- Pray for help from the Lord and ability so we can continue to listen to those who are in pain daily;
- May the Lord provide wisdom and counsel so we can be able to help people who are facing suffering;
- The Lord to protect us as we travel between villages knowing there is an increase in kidnapping in horrific ways;
- May the Lord bless or prosper our work so that people are changing their hearts and returning to the Lord with repentance and so their faith will be strengthened;
- Pray for our family and our children as I am away from them for a long time with ministering and caring for others;
- Pray for those who are standing behind us that they will have the ability to continue to support us;
- Pray for those who were kidnapped and missing. Pray for their families that God will give them patience and hope; and
- Pray that God will provide for us a center to rehabilitate the women, children and those who have suffered trauma from the war.
Abbassi pledged his prayers, "of course," but warned the situation likely will get worse before it gets better.
"We wish to see the Lord's intervention in a stronger way – we know that's what we as humans desire because we are impatient and we want to see immediate and quick solutions," Abbassi said.
Meanwhile, if people turn what seems to be a blind eye to the situation in the Middle East, it is not because they are necessarily apathetic, Abbassi said, but because like when people watch Soap Operas or listen to the Weather Channel, "they get used to it."
The fear for people closer to the situation is palpable, however, Abbassi said, when ISIS may just be a few hours away and buildings shake and planes fly overhead on bombing missions.
"It happened to countries we thought it could never happen to -- Iraq and Syria -- that were very stable," he said. "And now look at what they are going through. Destruction."
God can and will turn what is meant for evil to good, however, and he can cause fear to be replaced by peace in those hearts that seek Him, he said.
"I know that God is sovereign, so my comfort is that God is not asleep. He is still on the throne. He is bigger than all of this. You might die in peace and go to hell -- but maybe this time of fear might turn people's hearts to the Lord and they might need a better peace when look at all of this situation.
"He's not causing it, but He can sure transform this evil to good," Nabassi said.
* The original prayer request is in Arabic and translated in an interview by Dr. Nabeeh Abbassi.
(With some reporting by Will Hall, Christian Examiner Executive Editor.)