Twenty years after September 11, 2001, the world still feels the ripple effects from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Middle East, in particular, experiences these reverberations daily as America’s response to 9/11 included an increased military presence and a deepened relationship with Israel. Terrorism remains a significant threat to peace in the Middle East, as Hamas’ recent rocket strike against Israel attests. Recent events that are shaping the new Middle East include America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the Abraham Accords, the coronavirus pandemic, and most recently the United States removal of troops from Afghanistan.
The most immediate connection between 9/11 and the Middle East today is the continued threat of terrorism. The Islamic State has inspired several people to commit violent acts in the Middle East, Europe, and America. Israel continues to face attacks from terrorist groups bent on wiping out the nation’s very existence. For instance, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza earlier this year. While Israel’s defense system, the Iron Dome, intercepted most of the missiles before impact, this large-scale attack took a drastic emotional toll. In addition, Hezbollah recently fired rockets near Israel’s northern border—the fiercest attack Israel has faced from Lebanon since 2006. These strikes are a palpable reminder that terrorist groups remain a major threat to Israel’s safety and stability.
A significant concern that Western countries have regarding the Middle East is the possibility of Iran’s developing a nuclear weapon. In 2015, Iran agreed to limit certain materials that would be necessary to engineer nuclear arms in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. Many lauded the deal as a major diplomatic achievement while others, including the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, feared that the Iran nuclear deal was insufficient to prevent Iranian nuclear capability. Former President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal greatly weakened its force, and many countries are concerned that Iran may soon produce a nuclear weapon. President Biden plans to restore the Iran nuclear deal, but this will prove a difficult task given the current tensions between Iran and the United States.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought a new set of challenges to the Middle East. Like the United States and other Western nations, the region’s governments face many difficult choices regarding what measures to take and how to enforce them. Several areas have lacked sufficient infrastructure, resources, and medical staff to accommodate the massive number of infected people needing hospitalization. Many citizens are disenchanted with their leaders’ responses. In Iraq, for instance, protestors question the government’s motives in banning public gatherings and suspect that the ban was at least partly designed to silence their criticisms.
While the Middle East is grappling with challenges like Islamic radicalism and the coronavirus pandemic, there is nevertheless hope and opportunity for the region. The coronavirus vaccine is an encouraging development, though it is not a cure-all for the issues the pandemic has created. There are also glimmers of hope in Israel’s relations with Arab countries. For instance, the Abraham Accords (2020) were the start of normalizing Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan soon followed, and more recently, Kosovo. Moreover, Israeli airlines recently flew their first direct flight from Tel Aviv to Morocco. Israeli travelers to the North African state formerly had to fly through a third country to arrive at their destination. The opening of direct flights between Israel and Morocco marks a milestone of improved relations between the two countries.
Most importantly, God Himself has a glorious plan for the Middle East, in which Jesus the Messiah will establish His rule in Jerusalem and usher in lasting peace. Even now, many Jewish people and Arabs are coming to faith. Although these believers often endure ostracism and persecution from their communities, they thrive and are passionate about sharing the good news. What is more, these followers of Jesus evince God’s desire to reconcile people groups that are often at odds with each other, such as Israelis and Palestinians. Let us pray that God would continue to draw people living in the Middle East to Himself and that those believers would be agents of peace in a difficult part of the world.
One organization that evangelizes and disciples people in the Middle East and North Africa is Uncharted Ministries. They host short-term mission trips in the region, equip Christians in North America to reach out to their Muslim neighbors, and support believers who are suffering for their faith. This ministry is proof that God is indeed working in amazing ways to save people in this area of the world—including a Holocaust survivor and a Lebanese terrorist. While the media often focuses on the violence and tragedy occurring in the Middle East, many Jewish people and Arabs there are experiencing the new life Jesus the Messiah offers. The founders of Uncharted Ministries, Tom and JoAnn Doyle, spoke about their work at our conference, 9/11 and the New Middle East.
This conference is your opportunity to learn more about the Middle East today and how 9/11 has shaped the region. We heard from Middle East experts, biblical scholars, and 9/11 frontline workers to honor the past and better understand the present. As we worshipped, prayed, and remembered together, we grew in our knowledge of 9/11 and how it has changed the world.
Note: The heart-breaking developments in Afghanistan began unfolding after this article was written. These events illustrate how quickly things change and how important it is that we continue to pray for the Middle East, especially the Afghan people.
 John Haltiwanger, “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Here’s What You Need to Know,” Business Insider, sec. Politics, April 9, 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/iran-nuclear-deal-explained.
 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Middle East and North Africa,” Reliefweb, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 16, 2020. https://reliefweb.int/report/ world/impact-covid-19-middle-east-and-north-africaApril 16, 2020.
 Tom Doyle, “God’s Stories,” Uncharted Ministries, accessed August 13, 2021, https://unchartedministries.com/stories/