Robin Wright is a remarkable woman. It’s not the wife of Francis Underwood (House of Cards) I am speaking of. The Robin Wright I am writing about actually is an American Affairs analyst, a journalist and author who has reported from over 140 countries. She has spent numerous tours in the Middle East, and understands its complexities as well as anyone I have listened to or read. I was first introduced to her writings when I picked up Dreams and Shadows, a really good book. Wright was in Portland speaking at the World Affairs Council last Thursday night.
In her presentation, she gave ten headlines worth pondering:
1-The ME region is experiencing its greatest turbulence since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
- the Arab Spring has shifted to the Arab Earthquake
2-Entitlement is now in play-everyone wants their rights
- but there is no common responsibility
3-Political Islam is on the run
- its meteoric rise has given way to meteoric decline (e.g. Egypt)
4-Extremist Islam is on the rise
- we are into the third generation of extremism, and each one is nastier
5-There is no viable middle
- there are not moderate rivalries—just extreme egos and ineptness
6-The region is an economic mess
- tourism and economic develop are gone
7-The young are more disillusioned than ever
- they have become a large percentage of the populace
8-Sectarian differences are at their greatest
-Sunni and Shia and other groups have never been further apart
9-Turmoil may lead to redefining the nations
- the lines drawn after WWI may become irrelevant
10-US standing has never been lower
- people no longer trust America
Wright went on to look at six regions, noting that most are filled with high unemployment and a feeling of hopelessness. Syria is the greatest humanitarian crisis on earth. There is no military nor diplomatic solution that anyone can see on the horizon. 4500 American lives were lost, along with 13000 Iraqis, and out of all of this Iraq may split apart.
Nonetheless, she is optimistic. The majority of the people are young and becoming more and more literate. Women are becoming more empowered. The populace—not dictators—will eventually have their way.
And the church should be optimistic. God is doing amazing things behind the scenes. Just talk to people working on the ground in places like Lebanon, and they will tell you there have never been more opportunities to reach Muslims with the gospel. The opening to showcase the grace of God and power of God has never been broader.
What happens in the days ahead will be influenced, in part, by what the church in America chooses to do. Will we ignore the Mideast? View it only as an opportunity to visit holy sites? Will we more intentionally partner with our brothers and sisters, from Damascus to Beirut to Cairo to Amman? After being there numerous times, I can tell you they need us—and we need them. This was not Robin Wright’s conclusion to her powerful analysis, but it must be ours.