Israel 2016 – Part 6

More about the conference Christ at the Checkpoint 4, with its sub-title “The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism.”

The conference is made up of seven sessions.

1. The Challenge of Religious Extremism within Islam

2. Gospel Response to Religious Extremism

Palestinians feel great sadness over the way that the media in the West report part of the story, not the whole story.

In times of crisis the foolish build walls and the wise build bridges. – John Azumah, originally from Ghana, now professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.

3. Our Muslim Neighbor

4. The Challenge of Christian Zionism

Christian Zionism is the belief by Christians that the Jews have a God-given right to the land of Israel and that this right is exclusive and therefore the Palestinians have no right to be in the land. This belief leads to an uncritical endorsement of and justification for Israel’s apartheid policies. John Hagee of San Antonio, TX, is a leading proponent of the Christian Zionist movement. Some Christian Zionists say that Palestinians don’t  exist.

It is certainly possible to love the Jews and rejoice that they can live in their ancient homeland without espousing the errors of Christian Zionism.

A Muslim leader, via video interview, observed that the occupation dehumanizes both the occupier and the occupied.

It is important to differentiate between Israel as a religion and Israel as a political strategy.           –Salim Munayer, professor at Bethlehem  Bible College.

In talking with a senior citizen from California I learned that everyone at her home church follows dispensational theology and has strong support for Christian Zionism. They opposed this woman’s coming to this conference, telling her that all Palestinians are opposing God and are the enemies of Israel and have no right to live in the land.

Prior to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in peace in Palestine.

5. We are Palestinian Christians

Five young adult Palestinians told how God has led them to remain in Palestine, with all its difficulties, including the humiliation of going through the checkpoints, to forgive and love and serve right here. This was very moving to hear their stories and see the joy they are finding in serving God.

6. The Challenge of Religious Extremism within Judaism

7. Palestinian Christians and the Challenge of Religious Extremism

The evangelical presence here is very small. There are 46 evangelical churches in Israel and 16 in Palestine.

Azar Ajaj served as Baptist pastor in Nazareth for 13 years and is now on the staff of Nazareth  Evangelical College. He said, “In Israel we are a minority within a minority within a minority.” The sequence of minorities from larger to smaller is, of course, Christians – evangelicals – and Palestinian evangelicals.

Over a million Palestinians live in Israel but with many restrictions, including a second-class citizenship, and no right to vote in national elections.

8. Religious Extremism within Us

With humility we must acknowledge that in the past the Christian Church has practiced religious extremism through pride, discrimination, persecution, violence and killing dissenting people.

Several speakers pointed out that listening to others is hard work, but this is what we are called to do.

One speaker pointed out an important lesson learned from the experience of apartheid in South Africa – that the oppressed need to  extend forgiveness and the oppressors need to experience repentance.

It will take me some time to process all that I heard and felt in this conference. Some of my blog readers may have opinions that differ from what I have described here, and that is fine. There is room for respectful disagreement in the family of God.

For my part, it has been a privilege to hear firsthand from believers who live in a situation so different from mine and who welcome the understanding and prayers of Christians in the West.

Also, although I have reported some observations that challenge some of the policies of the State of Israel, I respect Israel and am grateful for the privilege of visiting Israel and Palestine.

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One Response

  1. Thank you Brother John for your updates from Israel. It will require a few visits to your blog to view all of the photo’s and information. To think that you can update us from Israel instead of waiting until you arrive back home is amazing.

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