A Baptist leader in Lebanon sought prayer from the global Baptist community for the most recent conflict jeopardizing security of the nation in the Middle East.

“Please pray that God may intervene and prevent further losses in lives and property,” said Nabil Costa of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (also called Lebanese Baptist Society) said in a newsletter last week. “Pray for the leadership in Lebanon that they may put their differences aside and find solutions with the best interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese in mind.”

Fighting broke out a week ago in northern Lebanon when police raided suspected Fatah Islam hideouts in Tripoli, searching for bank robbers. The fighting spread to a nearby Palestinian refugee camp where the group had set up.

By Sunday a majority of families at the camp caught in the crossfire had fled. The Associated Press quoted a U.N. official saying more than 5,000 families–or about 25,000 refugees–have left. The camp is home to about 31,000 people.

Costa feared battles might spread to other parts of the country. He asked Baptists worldwide to pray for leaders of evangelical schools and ministries around the country, which have responded previously to humanitarian crises created by fighting between government and militant troops.

The United States sent eight planeloads of military aid, reportedly carrying ammunition, body armor, helmets and night-vision equipment.

Militant leaders charged the shipment included “non-conventional weapons” including nerve gas and warned the U.S. was dragging Lebanon into the war with Al-Qaeda.

The Lebanese government vowed to crush the resistance and gave Palestinian groups until mid-week to negotiate an end to the standoff.

White House spokesman Tony Snow responded to a question about the situation with a mention of Syria’s interest in destabilizing the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who is criticized in Lebanon as being too friendly to the U.S. Snow added there wasn’t a “causal link” between Syria and the current unrest.

Palestinian-led Fatah Al-Islam is made up of a few hundred Islamist extremists of various Arab nationalities and is said to be inspired by the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.

Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker Abssi claimed the group’s fight was with “Jews and Americans” and is not a security threat to Lebanon.

The fighting reportedly is the worst in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, disrupting security barely recovering nearly a year after war between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militants.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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