The Meaning Behind the Empty Flight

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The Meaning Behind the Empty Flight

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The flight was three-quarters empty.

It wasn't surprising. I had been expecting it.

Ever since the "underpants bomber" attempted to blow up the Amsterdam-Detroit flight over the city of Detroit, I had expected people to avoid the flight, the one I almost always catch when returning from visits to Ghana.

Logically, I had felt it would now be the safest flight in the world, but clearly others did not feel the same way.

There's no doubt about it—the threat of terrorism is affecting the airlines and people's confidence in flying.

It wasn't just the empty flight that I noticed. Ghana, which I was visiting in my capacity as senior pastor of the United Church of God in that country, turned out to be the country where the "underpants bomber" started his journey.

I've often read articles since 9/11 highlighting al-Qaeda's presence in Ghana and other parts of West Africa. An unmarked "fault line" runs horizontally across Africa, separating Islam in the north from the more Christianized (and Westernized) south. The nation of Sudan has suffered greatly from this, spending most of its postcolonial years in civil war between adherents of the two religions.

During my visit to Ghana, nearby Nigeria was going through Christian-Muslim violence on a horrendous scale and certainly not for the first time. Muslims were burning down churches while people were in them! (Similar attacks were taking place in Malaysia in faraway Asia.)

Ghana's Muslims represent only about 15 percent of the population, and they are mostly concentrated in the north. Iran recently built a university in the region to help develop the area. This could, of course, turn out to be a major influence in spreading radical Islam into the country.

Will it stop me from going to Ghana? I hope not, as I love Ghana and its people. My wife and I lived there for seven years, and our three children all attended school in the country.

However, the ongoing and unsolved problem of terrorism is an outside factor none of us can control. Any day could bring a monumental terrorist attack that could conceivably end all international travel!

You don't even have to go back a century to remember a terrorist act that ended an earlier attempt at globalization. It was the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, that triggered World War I. This ended an era of peace, growth and rising prosperity. The world has never been the same since.

When Jesus Christ was asked by His disciples, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3), the first thing He warned about was religious deception (verse 5).

Jesus then went on to predict "wars and rumors of wars" in many areas (Matthew 24:6). The "underpants bomber" who started his journey in Ghana was originally from Nigeria but had been radicalized in England and trained with al-Qaeda in Yemen. His planned "death flight" began in the Netherlands and was intended to kill hundreds in and over Detroit. It says a lot about our modern world when so many countries were involved. The war against radical Islam is clearly spreading, with many nations now actively involved in the conflict.

Where is this world headed? Jesus warned of the ultimate danger of annihilation but promised that God would intervene to save mankind from extermination. Be sure to read our booklet Are We Living in the Time of the End?

"Your kingdom come" should be our daily prayer (Matthew 6:10). It's certainly mine whenever I consider the high risk of travel in this increasingly dangerous world!