CHICAGO (BP) – Southern Baptist Messianic Jewish believer Ric Worshill received prayer requests from those in danger as fighting between Israel and Hamas raged earlier this month.
“Some of our friends and SBC missionaries over there actually had to leave,” Worshill said. “One of them left, with the neighbors upstairs, and just as they left the rockets started coming again. They’ll go back and they won’t know if their homes are there.”
Worshill, a Chicago-area police chaplain who serves as executive director of the 350-member Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship (SBMF), is among many urging prayer.
“I’ve been getting emails asking for prayer,” Worshill said. “We need to be praying. As a people of prayer, we Southern Baptists need to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem and for the salvation of those who are not yet believers.”
According to a report from WORLD News Group, Hamas began launching rockets, May 10, in retaliation against Israeli security crackdowns in East Jerusalem. Though a May 21 ceasefire ended 11 days of rocket attacks and airstrikes between Israel and Hamas, the violence has resulted in at least 255 casualties.
Before the ceasefire began, Concilium, Inc. – an organization that specializes in risk assessment for missionaries – reported that the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas shared similarities with a 50-day conflict in 2014, known as the Gaza War. Concilium also warned that “mob violence” and “small-scale terrorist attacks involving knives and vehicles” were more likely amid the conflict.
Scott Brawner, a Missouri Baptist church member and president of Concilium, urged Missouri Baptists to pray for the people of Israel and Palestine, including local Christians and missionaries impacted by the violence in both regions.
“Loss of life and perpetual conflict are a tragedy for everyone involved,” Brawner told The Pathway. “While violence in the region is not uncommon, we cannot be desensitized to it.”
“While we pray for the peace of Israel and the Middle East at large,” he added, “we must also remember to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters, those from Arab backgrounds, and formerly Jewish backgrounds, as well as Christian expatriates (i.e., missionaries).”
Brawner also said that Christians should pray for the political and military conflict in light of the greater spiritual conflict mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.
Speaking of the conflict prior to the ceasefire, Worshill said that Israel has a right to defend itself, echoing Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promised to “respond forcefully” until peace is restored.
“There’s a double standard throughout the world, especially when it comes to Jewish people. They’re held to a different accountability and they’re not allowed to defend themselves,” Worshill said. “It’s horrific over there. A lot of our friends and fellow believers over there … have been living in small bomb shelters or they’re living in communal bomb shelters because there are so many rockets.”
(This article includes reporting by Pathway associate editor Benjamin Hawkins.)