Three Impacts of TRIBE 2017

​Tribe 2017 was not my first writer’s conference, but it is just what I needed at this junction in my life. Every writer’s conference I have attended has contributed to developing my craft by giving me tools, insights, and connections with others that broadened my horizons and given me the courage to push forward.

I have been a follower of Jeff Goins for a little over a year and appreciated the insight and energy that he brings to the table. When I began reading about the Tribe Conference 2017, I made it a priority to get myself over to Franklin, Tn for the event. Believe me, it was a great choice.

Tribe 2017 was different from the get-go in at least three ways. First, it was not billed as a Christian Writer’s Conference, while many believing people attended, I loved the fact that there was some meaningful cross-pollination. Second, the youthfulness and innovative tone of the presenters, as well as the Premium workshops gave me several insights in how to more effectively utilize the power of the internet to share my message. Third, the vibe of the Tribe, the genuine feeling that I was being invited to join a band of like-minded writers and other creatives who desire to share their stories with the world.

Jeff Goins thank you for listening to your mentors and putting yourself out there and inviting your Tribe to come along for a shared adventure.

Hurricanes, Perseverance, and Tenacity

Today, I am in my hotel getting ready to go to work at the FEMA Call Center in Denton, Tx where I am detailed for a couple of weeks to work as a Stress Counselor. These people are on the phone 10 hours a day, seven days a week talking to survivors, helping people get their applications for FEMA support filled out correctly to get the callers what they need. I sincerely appreciate these folks, who have compassionate hearts. It is an honor to work with them. As the images of Irma flood out televisions and smart devices, the folks at the call center are preparing for the next wave of calls. Keep them as well as first responders, and survivors in your thoughts and prayers.

This is a second article concerning the components of resilient people, last week I wrote about the Two Traits of a Long-Term Marriage. Today I want to share a true story about a FEMA employee I met last hurricane season when I was working as a Stress Counselor at the JFO (Joint Field Office) in Baton Rouge last year. 
I had been on the scene for a couple of days when a woman about my age asked if I would like to join some of the team mates for a cup of coffee and some homemade cookies. Being the “new Guy,” I think they were trying to make me feel welcome in the very dynamic world of disaster response.  I marvel at the team stories of what they had done over the years as they shared their FEMA stories. In FEMA land people identify their longevity by how many hurricanes they have experienced. As we begin to break up a couple of my new friends told me that I needed to speak to Deb (not her real name).

I introduced myself to Deb and asked about her FEMA story. Then I just engaged my listening ears and eyes as she began to unpack her story. In August of 2005 Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury on Southern Louisiana in the days and weeks that followed a story of tremendous human suffering followed.  Deb’s story begins here.
I lived near the 9th Ward, and shortly after the levee broke, my family and I found ourselves flooded out and stranded. Thanks to some strangers, we were rescued and eventually made our way to a shelter, after spending a night on a bridge. From there my children and I lived in a shelter for about a week, within a couple of weeks, we moved in with some friends outside of Baton Rouge to begin our lives again.

Once we settled in I heard the FEMA was hiring, so I applied. I was so excited when they told me that they would be calling me within a few days. And as sure as the sun rising this morning I had a job at FEMA within five weeks of being flooded out in New Orleans. I have loved working with this organization who care so much for survivors of natural disasters. After all, they helped my family, and I get our feet back under us, and now that my children are all grown up it gives meaningful work as well as some time to enjoy my grand babies.

Then it happened again. One night in August of 2016 one of my boys called me and asked me if my house was flooding. I told him that I was fine, and though it had been raining that I was high and dry. That was until I swung my feet over from my bed to my floor when I felt the water coming over my feet. I thought, not again. Well, guess what, again has happened. My home was flooded, and once again my son and some friends helped me get out of my house. Fortunately, what was left of my “precious things” that I recovered from the floods were up high on my walls and in a storage facility that was on higher ground. The only thing I lost was furniture and some clothes, and for that I am grateful.

Before the night was over several of my FEMA friends were calling me to check on my status. I ensured them that I was just fine and that I was with my boy. The office told me to take whatever time I needed to before coming back to work. Within a day of two, I decided to get back to my job which is helping others. My home was insured, I carry the Federal Flood Insurance, so there was no need for me to wait around for something to happen.
I asked Deb about what made her so resilient and gave her the persistence and tenacity to refuse to become a victim. Her eyes opened a little wider, and a smile quickly came upon her face. My people, my family, are a tough bunch. Over several generations my people have show grit in tough times. My grandmother used to tell me that no matter what happens you have to keep your chin up and look for better days ahead.  You see, I know that no matter what happens to me, He is going to be there with me to guide me, strengthen me, and give me hope. I also know that He has given me this type of work to do at this phase of my life to be a help and a testimony to others.
What a powerful statement.

Today, as I am mentally preparing for the next few days of my FEMA deployment, I am grateful to know people like Deb. As we speak, I am sure that she is in Baton Rouge helping the survivors of Harvey and Irma.
So, when it comes to tenacity and perseverance how would you rate yourself? In a culture that is fixated on blame, do you find yourself drinking the Kool Aid of blame shifting or are you in a place where you own the space that you find yourself? Are you whining or winning? Are you developing tenacity and perseverance, or wallowing in self-pity and despair. The choice is yours; I hope you will choose the higher road.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Peserverance and Tenacity: 2 Keys to Lasting relationships

Perseverance and tenacity are two of the most important, least discussed, aspects of building and maintaining a long-term marriage. I should know, my wife, Angie and I recently celebrated our 45th anniversary. This year we took an anniversary trip to the Grand Canyon by train. We left Albuquerque on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and got off the train at Williams Junction. The next day we took the Grand Canyon Railroad to the Canyon. We had a wonderful, memorable time celebrating this milestone, with great conversations, fun memories and moments of relaxation.

Over the years, young people have asked Angie and me about the secret of staying married for this long. She has been known to say something like, “John can quit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I can quit on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Depending on which church service we attend, we confess our sins, we let the Lord know that we messed up, and so far he has given us the grace to move forward.

In all seriousness, if you stay married long enough you will go through various seasons. There will be warm Summers of recreation, joy, fun, and great memory building. There will be Fall seasons in your relationship when you will see things are moving toward a somber transition, some things like dreams, feelings of love may appear to be dying or at least losing their zest. Then there is Winter, a time when things could be very quiet, cold and apparently dead. Unfortunately, so many mistakes this season in a relationship as final. Then comes the Spring, a time of new, fresh, growth, renewed hope and change.

One of the most important things that Angie and I have learned are that a couple cannot avoid these seasons. Way too many couples quit in the Fall and Winter seasons of their marriage. They lose hope, they quit.
The resilient couple, those who are tenacious and persevere, learn that these seasons are just seasons, nothing more. And with that resilient mindset they live and learn through the falls and winters to experience personal and couple growth.

Forty-five years ago we stood before the Lord, a preacher, as well as family and friends to repeat our vows. 45 years ago the vows were beautiful, vintage, romantic, and traditional words that gradually changed our lives.
Tenacious, preserving couples believe in the vows they said, and after forty-five years of multiple seasons, Angie and I can both say that we have and will continue to live out vows as long as we draw breath.

As I begin to wrap up this article, I would like you to take just a moment to review the meaning of perseverance and tenacity.

Perseverance comes from the eating word perseverance which means steadfast. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means – continued efforts to do or achieve something despite difficulties, challenges, and opposition.

Tenacity comes from the Latin word, tenacity and means not easily stopped or pulled apart. The Merriam-Webster dictionary means mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. It also implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger.

I am not sure where you are in your personal relationships or marriage, but I want to encourage you to hang in there.  Billy Ocean, and I am dating myself, performed a song, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Unfortunately, our culture is becoming a relationship wasteland. If people do not get what they want in a relationship, or if they are going through a hard time, they quit and go looking elsewhere.
I want to challenge you to do a gut check on yourself and about your relationship. Are you a person/couple who demonstrate tenacity and perseverance or are you a quitter.

Make the choice today to go for the long haul.

How? If you have made a mess of your marriage, confess your mess to God and your spouse, clean your mess up, and move forward.

Here are two articles that you might also enjoy: the first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal entitled Starts and Stops; Ways to Keep Your Relationship Moving Forward.

The Second, How to have a Happy Wife
Would love to hear your thoughts, so let me hear your comments.

Resilience key # 4 – decisiveness

In 2007, Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft stated, “There is no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No Chance!” He was off just a little bit.
Today we are going to take a look at the fourth pillar of resilience, decisiveness and taking personal responsibility.
Lee Iacocca, the former president of both Ford and Chrysler, said, “The one word that makes a great leader/manager is decisiveness.
While working on my new book, The No Fear Entrepreneur, I did a survey of over 1500 entrepreneurs, the most surprising results was that 74.24 % shared that Fear of Decision Making was a major struggle with them. I will address this fear and what to do about it in this short article. By the way, we are in the final stages of prepaing the book for it’s launch.
The world we live in today has changed at a lightning pace and shows no indications that things are going to slow down. Take just a moment to see how much social media has changed the way we see and do things. Markets are shifting. Consumer habits are transforming the way business has been connected at breakneck speed. The world has become a global market. I can sit in a room in Espanola, NM and order an item from Kenya and have it at my door in a week to ten days.
I recently read an article about the top ten jobs in America today, much to my surprise a majority of the top ten didn’t exist ten years ago. Man, no wonder I feel my age.
Now, more than ever you and I need to quit looking back in the mirror of the past and make bold decisions to move forward, embrace change.
While being decisive is a must, it is not a guarantee of success, but it always proceeds it.
Being a student of language, which started in Mrs. Ruffo 8th grade Latin class, I decided to look up the Latin root for the word decision. Part of the derivative is the word cis or cid which literally means to ‘cut off’ or ‘to kill.’ That same work root appears in the work homicide and scissors. Since you and I live in a world with a super buffet of choices, to be most effective requires that we learn to “kill off options” sometimes. You see, every mature decision will potentially hurt somebody.
Decisiveness and taking personal responsibility takes an act of courage. It demands to have faith in yourself and in your concept of God that no matter what happens as a result of your decision you will be able to handle it, and you will ultimately benefit from it. That act of faith in both you and the Lord can go a long way in easing the paralysis of analysis that indecision can cause.
Resilient people embrace uncertainty as part and parcel of life. Living a decisive life based on assuming responsibility for one action, will position you in a place where you will be able to seize the opportunity when it comes your way.
Action Plan
So where do you begin? Start where you are today. The best way to become more decisive is to do just that, start making decisions and assuming responsibility for them.
Remember, the scariest decision is the one that you fail to make. 
Jesus gives us a couple of great tools for decision making. The first is seek wise counsel. The second is to let our yes be yes, and our no be no. Maybe is a word that is absent from most of the Bible.
Be Blessed, because He that is in you is bigger than he who is in the world. And remember, the choice is always ours, so choose wisely.

Hey, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Integrity is the Key to Resilience

I am glad that you are making a choice to read by blog, my hope is to enrich your life by some of the lessons that I have learned along the way.

In the first piece on resilience, we talked about the top 6 characteristics of resilient people.

Let’s take just a second to review a definition of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction that are often associated with critical incidents, acts of terror, mass disasters, and personal trauma.
Dr. George Everly,  Psychological Body Armor.

The first characteristic of a resilient person was active optimism.

The second is Integrity.

Simply said: Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than professing them. (Pinterest post)

Another way of looking at integrity is it gives you a real, fresh, and profound freedom because there is no hidden agenda, no slight of hand, being honest. C.S.Lewis said that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.

A resilient person lives in factual reality. They maintain situational awareness, meaning that they are in tune with what is going on around them, and that takes affirmative action to use opportunities to their advantage and to serve others.

So, how would you grade yourself in the integrity department?

Just something to think about as you learn to become a more resilient person.

I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment.

(c) 2017 John Thurman

A First for Father’s Day!

This will be the first Father’s Day that we will not be able to talk. He left this earth just a few weeks after my momma passed away. My Dad,  J.H. (Howdy) Thurman died on January 11, 2017. Being the first born to my family, Dad and I had a long, rewarding relationship. Through my crazy teen years even up to the week before he died, Dad was always filled with encouragement and a good story.
A few weeks after returning from his funeral in Fort Valley, Georgia, a pastor friend of mine asked what I missed the most. I told him, “Thursdays.” He said, “What?” Then I told him that for over 20 years I called Dad on Thursday. Typically, these calls would provide him with updates on our kids and grandkids, as well as details about what my wife and I were doing in our businesses and ministries. He would update me on mom, my brothers and sister and then, being a true smalltown gentleman, he would update me on who had passed out last call.

When he would share the news about friends and coworkers dying he would always be somewhat philosophical saying something like, “When you get as old as your mother and I you attend a lot more funerals than weddings.”
You know, I do miss Dad. While I will be with my children and my three grandsons this Sunday, I will deeply miss my phone calls with Dad.

With that in mind, I wanted to share an article that my friend and sometimes editor, Lee Warren published in Women’s Day Magazine. Lee lost his father several years ago, so this article comes from deep within his heart. As we approach Father’s Day, I hope you will allow his words to sink into a deep place in your heart. I hope you have a blessed Father’s Day.

A final thought before you go to my Lee’s powerful article. If you need to get things cleared up with your Dad, but all means do so.

Would love to hear from you.

Use Active Optimism to Push Back Fear & Doubt!

What makes people move through tough times?

In my last post, I talked about resilience and its importance in being an overcome in life. Resilient, tenacious people make things happen.

My friend and mentor, Dr. George Evelry has made it his life mission to understand resilience and the impact it has on people. In his first book Resilient Child (2009), he looked at factors which influenced children on the road to resilience. In 2012, his book Resilient Leadership (Everly, Strouse,& Everly), he was able to identify and explain leadership factors which build resilience in their teams and organizations. The undaunted researcher continued his studies and released the book Stronger (Everly, Strouse, & McCormack, 2015). In this resource, he looked into the psychological and behavioral factors present in professional athletes, U.S. Navy Seals, as well as those civilians and wounded service members who recovered from catastrophic injury.
What I find most exciting about his research is his discoveries can enable us to understand ourselves as we seek to have an impact on our families, ministries, and work.

Active Optimism

The first trait of a resilient person has engaged optimism. The core belief that life events will turn out well, mainly because one believes she/he possess the ability to assist in making things turn out well. For the Christian, it may sound like the Apostle Pauls reminder in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

One of the keys to understanding active optimism is to realize it is not some “pie in the sky, the world is all rainbows and lollipops.” Dynamic optimism is based on having realistic expectations.

Another key to understanding dynamic optimism is to understand the term self-efficacy. This term was coined by Dr. Albert Bandura (1977; 1997) and means “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.” Another definition is the person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a given situation.
My question is; Why do so many Christian businessmen and women, ministry leaders, and others struggle with this idea.
I think it is because of our mindset.  I do not believe it is a matter or faith, but more about our mindset.

So John, what are some things I can do to increase my optimism?

Part of developing active optimism has the right mindset.

Dr. Carolyn Dweck’s book Mindset: The new Psychology of Success looks into this matter with great skill and practical insights.
Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a couple of years ago.

First, choose to shift into a “growth mindset.”Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes. I believe this is where so many fruitless Christians are stuck; they believe they have no power to change, which is a lie from the pit of hell. In my first book Get a Grip on Depression, I reveal six of the most common, fixed mindsets, or “stinking thinking” patterns that can hold us back. Why not order a copy today.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With faith, the proper motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration you have the ability to make the changes you need to make. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history and He has an active, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.
From my struggle in this area, I know working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In addition to checking out your mindset here are four more ways to increase active optimism.

1.Being successful at something. Actual success builds the belief that one can be successful in the future. Past successes, no matter how small are the building blocks for future successes.

2.Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) increase the overall confidence of people observes the actions of others. For example, my wife is a Senior Leader in Premier Designs Jewelry; she has been involved with this outstanding company for the past 25 years. Over these two and a quarter decades she has shared her story of abuse, recurrent major depression and suffering a Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and how she built her business in spite of those challenges. Her hope is by sharing her story; she will inspire her audiences to embrace their challenges with a growth mindset and trust the Lord to bless.

3.Verbal persuasion and encouragement from others enhance self-esteem and resilience. Parents, leaders, coaches, co-workers and teammates have a positive impact on self-efficacy. These various sources of support help set the stage for success. Finding a supportive and encouraging mentor can mean the difference between failure and success in nearly every area of one’s life.

4. Learning to control one’s impulses, emotions, and reactivity under stress and adversity can convey a confidence which translates into proactive resilience.

So what do you want to do? Are you happy where you are? Alternatively, do you want to work on a reset, moving towards a growth mindset, and a more optimistic world view? The Lord put you on this earth to have an impact! One of the ways you can move out of the shadows and into the light is to open your mind to the things the Lord wants to show you and have the courage to live with an optimistic world view.
I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to leave a comment.

(c) 2017 John Thurman All rights reserved.

Resilience: A Must for intentional living.


Resilience began to show up in the workplace and in popular culture in the early 2000’s.  I had the joy of having published an article in Christianity Today’s Woman in 2008, called Bounce Back, which was about applying resilience to relationships
Since the term resilience is a relatively refreshed word in our culture, I want to give you a baseline definition of the term. Resilience is defined as the ability to withstand, adapt, or rebound from extreme challenges or adversity. Developing this characteristic will help you have a definite edge in your daily living.  Resilience combined with an understanding of stress inoculation will help you live a life without fear, a life of hope, a life of helping others because you first helped yourself. Hmm, seems like a concept from some piece of ancient literature.

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”        Mark 12:30-31New Living Translation (NLT)

If you look in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus 19; 9-FF you will notice a very practical activity farmers and vineyard owners were commanded to do. They were to leave some of the abundances of their crops in the field or on the vine for others to be blessed with their abundance.

I hope you do not miss this important point, as I become more intentional, more focused, more successful others will be blessed.
Why is it so important to grasp this concept? Because all of the indicators point toward the fact that resilient people make a resilient organization, and resilient organizations can have a dynamic, kinetic, and positive impact on the world.

Recently I was tasked to write, produce and lead a webinar for a large DoD agency’s civilian employees call Surviving Stress. In my research, I was able to identify six primary qualities of resilient people. I am very grateful for Dr. George Everly’s book Resilient Leadership and some of the fresh insight I gained into leadership. Hopefully; you can apply some of what I am sharing with yourself or any organization.

Here are the six. I will cover the concepts two at a time over the next three weeks, plus I will also post a version of Surviving Stress up as a podcast in the next few weeks.

Here are the Six Qualities of Resilient People.

1.Optimism, faith or sense that no matter what happens that things will work out.


3.Social support both inside and outside of the workplace

4.Being decisive and taking responsibility

5.Perseverance and tenacity

6.Exercising self-control.

I hope this article encouraged you to learn more about resilience. This important principle is a “must have” if you are going to succeed in any endeavor.

This summer, my new book, Get a Grip on Fear, published by Bold Vision Books, is going to deal specifically with the six common fears people face in life, in addition to talking about the fears, I will be sharing practical, “best practices,” and Bible studies to help you with fear. Many of those personal, transformational principles are rooted in the principle of resilience.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this article. Let me know your thoughts.  I hope you have an outstanding week.

(c) 2017, John H. Thurman J.r, All rights reserved.

How To Have a Happy wife!


Angie and I in Israel 2014.

For the past few weeks, I have been up to my eyeballs in finishing up my soon to be released the second book, Get a Grip on Fear: A Primer for Entrepreneurs, that is the major reason that I have not posted anything since Holy Week.
I have been thinking about my relationship with my wife Angie for the past few weeks, in light of the loss of my parents as well as some of the exciting growth that we as a couple are experiencing I wanted to take a moment to encourage you in your marriage.

You deserve to be in a meaningful and rewarding relationship! The question is; are you ready to do your part to make it happen?
Relationships are tough because we think we are normal and everyone else is weird or “disordered.” This attitude shows up in many male/female relationships. Suddenly your prize has become a surprise. When it all comes down to it, I believe that in many ways women are more complex than men.

For instance, think about your personal care items when you travel. This week I will be head back East and today I was checking my “go bag” to make sure all of the necessities are in there As a guy I have a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, floss, and cologne. If you noticed my picture, I do not require a comb. My wife, on the other hand, has all that plus hair care products, lotions, facial treatments, on and on it goes. She says it is because when men travel we tend to think about the context of being functional while women tend to think about being fashionable.

One part of building a stronger relationship and winning your woman’s heart is to know what you need to be doing.
The first things guys can do to make their woman happy is to see your relationship as a job. Ladies, I know this doesn’t sound very romantic, but the findings are based on solid research.

Guys, here is your job description for being in a long-term relationship.

First, love her, honor her, and respect her.

Second, be sexually and emotionally faithful to her. This means both in the real world and in the digital world.

Third, listen to her without being judgmental. We guys are hard-wired to problem solve. Sometimes she does not need that. She just wants us to listen.

Fourth, support and nurture her ambitions both in and outside of the home.

Fifth, make a honest effort to understand how she is different emotionally. Our mission is not to change her, but to acknowledge and respect our differences as men and women.

Sixth, be honest and always do what you say you will do. There is no room for lies about infidelity, addiction issues, or other important matters that reflect who you are. Be accountable for what’s important – the crucial stuff, your promises.

Seventh, share in child care and domestic work.

Eighth, be attentive, fun-loving, and pursue her like you did when you were first dating.

Ninth, be affectionate. This means more than cuddling or holding hands, but a deep sense of connection. If a woman doesn’t feel connected to you, she will leave you at some level.

Let me know what you think.

Holy Week 2017


Holy Week 2017 is here, and what a start. As I am writing, the networks are sharing a breaking news story about two attacks on two Egyptian Coptic churches on this Palm Sunday. ISIS (Daesh) is taking credit for the horror. It seems that horror is never far away from you in the Holy Land.

In the interest of full disclosure, this will be a different type of blog from me this week.
When Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, the Jews were under the Roman Empire’s heel. Zealots were killing Romans and Roman sympathizers, a pretty rough season in Israel’s history. By the end of the week he will be brought up on false charges, be beaten, betrayed, crucified, buried, but, well you know the rest of the story, he arose!

As we celebrate this special season, I would like to take a moment and reflect on the status of our brother and sister believers living in the Middle East and North Africa area.
While Palm Sunday is the traditional beginning of the holiest week in all of Christendom, today also marks the untimely death of over forty Coptic believers
Many of you know that over the past several years I have been blessed to work with several nongovernmental agencies, primarily in the Levant region of the Middle East. The term is occasionally employed to refer to contemporary events, peoples, states or parts of states in the same region, namely Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey are sometimes considered Levant countries. In these trips, I have had the chance to talk to missionaries, relief workers, and local believers, as well as their Muslim neighbors. In these discussions, I would occasionally ask them about the status of Christians in that part of the world. Two to one, they shared how dismayed they were about how many Christian, who grew up in the Holy Land are leaving the area. This was something I had heard about but have only now begun to understand how significant this migration has been.
Let me share some interesting facts about this dilemma.
The following is from Dr. David L. Johnstons’s blog Christians Caught in the Crossfire. Be sure to check out the full article by clicking on the link. This was written in March 2014, there have been some obvious changes with some of the current issues with Syria and ISIS (Daesh).
Why the exodus?
Colin Chapman, Anglican clergyman and Islamicist who taught for many years at Beirut’s Near Eastern School of Theology gave a lecture on the past, present and future of Middle East Christians (available here). Here are some of the challenges, he said, that all Christians in the region are facing:
1. An identity crisis: “In cultures in which it is assumed that ‘Arab’ means ‘Muslim,’ Christians are made to feel that they don’t belong.” Yes, they massively contributed to the 19th-century Arab literary, scholarly and cultural.
2. A ghetto mentality: Because of many legal restrictions against them and an often difficult minority status over the centuries, Christians tend to fear their Muslim neighbors and despise them.
3. A fear of Muslim radicalism: with the rise of international jihadism since the mid-1990s Christians wonder if that might not become the true face of future Mideastern Islam.
4. Economic hardship: Arab Christians are well educated, but squeezed by a stagnant economy without job prospects for the youth.
5. American foreign policy: even with the US pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq, Arabs in general (you can add Turks and Iranians), who have suffered from arrogant and aggressive colonialist policies in the last two centuries, still see the founding of the State of Israel, the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and current US hegemony in the region as more of the same. Christians, as a result, have often been seen as secretly allied to the “Christian West” and have paid a heavy price for it. But never before has violence against Mideast Christians flared up as it has in this new century – hence, the last point I add myself, building on Chapman’s third point.
6. The new wave of violence against Middle East Christians: Imam Yahya Hendi, President of Clergy Beyond Borders, quotes Azizah al-Hibri, professor of law at the University of Richmond and founder the influential Islamic feminist website Karamah (“Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights”) in an article that calls on Muslim leaders to stem the tide of Christians leaving the region:
“The desecration of cemeteries in Libya, the murder of clergy in Iraq and Syria, the attacks on churches in Egypt are all beyond the imaginations of civilized nations and educated spiritual region. Recently, suicide bombers targeted worshippers leaving their church in Peshawar and killed at least 60, including women and children and two Muslim policemen guarding the church. A gang of armed terrorists attacked a couple of weeks ago, the sleepy village of Ma’loulah in Syria. Several of its inhabitants were killed, its historic monasteries and churches were pillaged, and the crosses were removed.”
Plenty of other Muslim leaders and scholars are speaking out as well. I want to single out two, in particular, Hussein Ibish and Reza Aslan. Ibish was born in Beirut, earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts and taught Islamics at the American University of Beirut. Today he is best known in his country as a prolific writer and journalist, though he is also a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and based in Washington, D.C. Already in April 2013, he published an article entitled, “Fate of Christians will define Arab Future.” The incident which sparked the piece was an Islamist attack on a funeral service in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo which killed two people and injured ninety. This kind of attack, he writes, sends shivers down his spine:
“As Egypt goes, so goes the Middle East. If the Coptic community of Egypt is thus abused, disparaged, and attacked, what kind of societies are emerging in the Arab world? The regional implications are chilling.
Pluralism will be unattainable if long-standing, and traditionally well-regarded Christian communities cannot be respected. Forget about skeptics, agnostics, or atheists. Never mind smaller religious groups like Yezidis, Alawites, Baha’is, and Druze. If ancient, large Christian communities find the Arab world fundamentally inhospitable, Muslims will turn on each other just as readily.”
“The bottom line is this: if the Arab world, and the broader Middle East, cannot accommodate Christians and other minorities, it won’t be worth living in for anybody. And if the region emerges from a period of ethnic and sectarian conflict – of monumental inhumanity when minorities are hounded out of areas in which they have lived for generations and been an integral part of the culture – those societies will one day look back on it as an unprecedented calamity.”
I hope that you will take a look at the entire article.
I have shared all of this with my Christian friends to raise awareness and to shed some light on what is going on in the cradle of Christianity over 2000 years ago.
As we move through the rest of Passion Week and reflect on the week before Christ’s death, burial and resurrection let us be reflective and prayerful as we remember the price Jesus paid for our sins, but let also remember the Christian throughout the world who are under persecution.
Thanks for taking a moment to read this post, I hope you have a meaningful Easter as we celebrate His Resurrection.
He Is Risen!
Next week: What Easter teaches us about fear.