By Jamie O’Banion
Silence filled the hall as the boisterous Syrian people listened to children”s voices singing primary songs, causing the hatred in their hearts to be momentarily lifted.
“We sang of goodness, light and of peace. A silence fell on the crowd and, for a brief moment, the anguish and hatred lifted. All in attendance felt the peace that we gave from our simple primary songs,” read Devotional speaker Kirk Belnap from the diary of one of the students who participated in the Syrian study abroad program.
At Tuesday”s Devotional, July 8, in the de Jong Concert Hall, Kirk Belnap, BYU associate professor of Arabic, cited several personal examples of charity that influenced the lives of others in distant lands.
As Belnap continued reading the journal, students” eyes welled with tears. “During this performance I came to understand a portion of the pain that these Syrians had experienced and through our songs we offered to them the healing balm of the spirit of peace,” he read.
Belnap said people must press on in their discipleship and pray for the gift of charity that will enable them to see every man as a brother and every woman as a sister.
“We must guard against the tendency to assume that it is too late for us to make a difference,” Bond said. “We must pray for love to replace fear, for there is no fear in love.”
Belnap said people should not avoid the battle against evil that they have come to this earth to fight and, as disciples of Christ, they cannot give up.
“As long as one”s relatives, friends and neighbors are safe and sound, it”s tempting to write off the world and sit back and hope the Lord comes quickly,” Belnap said. “If we shun the fight are lamps are likely to run out of oil.”
Belnap told the story of Alysha, a BYU student determined to learn Arabic and serve the Islamic people. She was given the opportunity to serve when she studied as an abroad student in Syria. It was there she learned that “nothing softens a person”s heart towards a people like learning their language.”
Alysha and her peers served at a local hospital working with Down syndrome children in Syria. She said the highlight of her experience was strengthening the saints in Jordan”s three branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At a church meeting, she wept thanking God she had learned Arabic.
“Individuals can make a critical difference in the course of history. I believe that the world is a better place and that it will be a better place because of what these students and others have done and what they are doing,” Belnap said.
In reference to his trip abroad, Belnap discussed the Islamic-influenced architecture of the LDS temple in Madrid, Spain, describing a stain glass window as “an exercise in cosmic geometry that pulls the soul back to God.”
“I find the Islamic influence on the architecture of the Madrid temple deeply symbolic of the role Mohammad and Islamic society played in laying the ground work for the restoration which is eventually to gather together all things in one in Christ,” Belnap said.
He spoke of the contributions of Mohammad and the Muslim church, quoting a statement made in 1978 by the First Presidency of the LDS church that acknowledged the role of Mohammed in the restoration.
“Someday, when all things are revealed, I am confident that we will marvel at the depth we owe to peoples all across the earth,” Belnap said.
“Let us remember that all are like unto God and that the entire world is populated with sons and daughters of God. Sons and daughters who chose him and his plan.”
“I am grateful that the Lord has given us such specific guidance to help us find peace in troubled times and to help us know what we need to do,” Belnap said. “And do we must if we wish to be among those who hear the words, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”