U.S. missile strikes against Syria called 'just,' prayer urged

The USS Porter fires a Tomahawk missile at a Syrian airbase April 6 in retaliation to deadly chemical attacks. Screen capture from U.S. Department of DefenseFollowing a U.S. missile strike against Syria, Southern Baptists pledged prayer and claimed the action was appropriate retribution for deadly chemical attacks allegedly carried out by the Syrian military.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines said he "completely support[s]" President Trump's authorization of the attack. Former U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Douglas Carver said the strike "met the 'just war' criteria for military actions." Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore said the Syrian regime's "murderous terrorism ... threatens to further unravel the already precarious situation in the Middle East."

American warships fired 59 Tomahawk missiles April 6 at a Syrian government airbase believed to have been used two days earlier to launch a chemical attack against a northern Syrian city held by rebels in the nation's six-year civil war.

Syria's chemical attack killed at least 86 people, including 27 children, according to CNN.

The U.S. missile strike, which was carried out just before 4 a.m. local time to minimize casualties, killed six people, according to media reports. The action targeted aircraft, fuel, ammunition supply bunkers and "the things that make the airfield operate," a Pentagon spokesman noted.

Trump said deterring "the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," like the nerve agent allegedly deployed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is in the "vital national security interest of the United States."

Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., told Baptist Press in written comments Assad "must be held accountable for using chemical weapons that have resulted in the deaths and sufferings of scores of Syrian civilians. Americans must not be isolationists in such matters."

Gaines agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's assessment that "in both word and action [Trump] sent a strong and clear message [that] the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated." The SBC president added, "When military bullies harm helpless people, someone should stand up for the innocent and for righteousness. I believe America should do just that."

Carver, the North American Mission Board's executive director of chaplaincy, claimed the American strike should be considered an ethical use of military force for at least three reasons:

• It had a just cause because "the U.S. had warned ... Assad for over five years against the movement or deployment of weapons of mass destruction," and Assad "failed to heed the clear warnings."

"In the aftermath this week's deadly gas attack, it simply made no sense for President Trump to wait for Assad to use these deadly weapons at some point again in the future. It was necessary for the sake of peace and order in that region," Carver told BP in written comments.

• Trump's order to strike was lawful and in keeping with the U.S. president's "authority to take limited military actions that protect U.S. national security, promote our democratic values and defend the innocent of other nation states. If the U.S. had done nothing, it would have been a dereliction of our duty as a world power and a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles."

• The strike was a "last resort" following years of diplomatic, economic and political efforts to halt human rights violations by the Assad regime.

Carver added that Americans should "pray without ceasing for our president and all of those who are in authority over our lives, especially during this critical time in the history of the world."

"Pray that God will provide President Trump the wisdom, discernment and moral courage to meet his increasing demands as commander-in-chief," Carver said. "Pray that the president exercises his authority in a credible, noble and God-fearing way. Pray for God's protection, provision, perseverance and peace on the members of the Armed Services who support and defend our nation, and who are deployed in harm's way preserving global peace and order."

Moore said "the crisis in Syria ought to shock every human conscience," adding the missile strike is "welcome" if part of a larger strategy for Syria.

"It ought to be clear that the Assad regime's murderous terrorism there threatens to further unravel the already precarious situation in the Middle East, and has implications both for human rights and national security," Moore told BP in written comments. "As long as the most recent actions by the United States are part of a long-term strategy to resolve this crisis, I see them as welcome.

"We should pray for the president and our country's national security leaders for wisdom in confronting this awful situation. Above all, we should pray for peace and justice in Syria, and for the thriving of the Syrian church, where we have had brothers and sisters in Christ since before Paul's Damascus Road conversion," Moore said.

Following the strike, the ERLC tweeted, "We are praying for the people of Syria, who are created in the image of God. Will you join us?"

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.

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