Counting backwards:

#5: The Arab Spring is real. Democracy, freedom, human rights, all take time. Look at America. The modern USA began (arguably) in 1776 with Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Remember that it took us almost 100 years to allow black men to vote and another 50 years before women could vote. And legalized segregation was still common during my lifetime. So we need to be patient with this budding democratic movement called “the Arab spring.”

It’s one thing for a group like the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt to sit on the sidelines and critique the existing government of tyrants like (former) President Mubarak. It’s another for them to effectively run a complicated country like Egypt. Two more rounds of elections and a more real and balanced democracy is likely. Patience!

#4: Globalization is a positive trend. The Middle Eastern bloggers on are amazing. Yemeni, Saudi and Omani women write regularly about the issues of their peoples and women’s rights. The internet has flattened the world and increased communication to every corner. It’s no longer possible for a dictator, monarch or an ultra-conservative Islamist movement to dupe their people. Cell phones, Twitter, Facebook and satellite TV are in every home. An oppressed people will know there’s a bigger and brighter world out there than the one they’re experiencing – and they’ll ask for it….one way or another!

#3: The Israeli-Palestinian issue is at the heart of much of the Middle East’s turmoil. At least that’s what many there would claim. Rather than being skeptical of those claims, I’d simply agree. It’s at the heart of many issues!

But there’s hope. More and more thoughtful Israelis and Palestinians are working towards a just and lasting peace. It’s not just the extreme minority peaceniks who see how ridiculous the radicals on both sides have acted. The idea of real negotiations and an honest two-state solution is gaining ground. When a solution – which has to be proposed by the Israelis and backed by the US – becomes real, the Palestinians will agree.

What that does, other than the obvious of helping both Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace – is to take the wind out of the sails of the most radical Islamists who use the Israeli issue as their battle cry. They may still attempt to do this, but if there’s a fair and just settlement for the Palestinians, it becomes more difficult.

#2: The Middle East is a region full of “family values.” Arabs and Israelis. Muslims, Jews and Christians. All have similar and deeply rooted hope in their immediate and extended families. When I’ve asked leaders on all sides what their #1 hope is for the region, they invariably say something like “We want a place for our children and grandchildren to live peacefully and prosperously.”

There is nothing more important than their children. They do NOT want to teach them hatred toward the other. They want what we want for our kids. To make the football team (their version of “football” not ours). To get a great education. A chance to travel freely. And have a good paying job. That’s it. This is a huge motivating factor for hope in the region. The kids.

#1: All the Prophets of the three Monotheistic religions came from this land. The Prophets messages were consistent – repent and turn towards God, and He will rescue you. We know these Prophets, who spoke from God, were from the Middle East. But here in the West we sometimes forget that Jesus was also from there. I like to remind my American Christian friends that he was not from Tulsa Oklahoma. He was not a Christian. And he did not come to start a new religion called American Evangelical Christianity. He was from Nazareth. A Palestinian Jew. Short. Brown-skinned. Probably a large hooked nose. And he understood the region. He’s from there!

Jesus hasn’t lost track of the Middle East. He knows where it is and he loves the people there. This alone gives me reason to hope – even rejoice. All is not lost. In the midst of much darkness, there is a Light.