Christians meet in Bethlehem to expose cracks in evangelical support for Israel

Palestinians women are checked at an Israeli checkpoint between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 18. AFP
Updated 27 May 2018

Christians meet in Bethlehem to expose cracks in evangelical support for Israel

  • Cummings admits there is a rising problem in America that is true in the evangelical community and wider society
  • The “Christ” that Christian fundamentalists talk about puts one side of the religion in a conflict against the other

AMMAN: Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem are hosting a major conference that aims to expose cracks in the theological basis for the support many evangelicals give to Israel.

The conference, named “Christ at the Checkpoint,” starts on Monday with 400 people expected to attend, including 210 from outside the region.
Munther Isaac, director of the conference, told Arab News that this is the first time in the era of Donald Trump’s presidency and since the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem that Palestinians and others will have a say regarding attempts to hijack Christianity to support political positions on Israel and Palestine.
“Although we are witnessing a re-emergence of the Christian Zionist camp, we are confident that this is an artificial rise that has no basis among young people, among academics, among theologians or Christians and the evangelical Christian elite,” said Isaac, pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.
He said organizers of the conference “are going back to the roots and theology in an attempt to challenge Christian Zionist theology and in a way that makes it clear that it doesn’t reflect Christian values.”
Isaac says that the “Christ” that Christian fundamentalists talk about puts one side of the religion in a conflict against the other, opposes peace, violates international law and is the opposite of peacemaking.
Professor Joseph Cummings, pastor of the International Church at Yale University in Connecticut, told Arab News he was invited to speak on the topic of seeing Muslims through the eyes of Jesus.
“The challenge to Christians around the world is to think of the Palestinian context in the eyes of Jesus,” said Cummings, who is director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.
He also believes that “unfortunately Christians, and particularly American Christians, don’t ask the question of what Jesus would do in dealing with a conflict such as the Palestine-Israel one.”
Cummings admits there is a rising problem in America that is true in the evangelical community and wider society.
“We have bigotry toward Muslims and hostility toward Palestinians and toward Arab Muslims in general that has nothing to do with the Christian faith but everything to do with American white nationalism. It is the antithesis of the faith in Jesus Christ,” he said.
He argued that the rise of Donald Trump is not the cause of the problem but it is a symptom. “It has made it more urgent than ever that Christian leaders must say that Jesus taught us to love our neighbors and Jesus rejects bigotry and prejudice.
Among the invited speakers are megachurch pastors including Eugene Cho from Seattle and Brian Zahnd from Missouri. International speakers also include Ajith Fernando from Sri Lanka, Michael L. Brown, a messianic Jewish pastor, and Gary Burge from the Calvin theological seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Bishara Awad, president emeritus at the Bethlehem Bible College, which has organized the conference since 2010, told Arab News that the aim of the event has always been to talk about justice and peace.
The opening session is under the patronage of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and it is expected that Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki will address the conference.


Anti-Assad fighters withdraw from key area of northwest Syria

Updated 20 August 2019

Anti-Assad fighters withdraw from key area of northwest Syria

  • The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces
  • After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar

BEIRUT: Jihadists and allied rebels withdrew from a key area of northwestern Syria Tuesday as President Bashar Assad’s forces pressed an offensive against the jihadist-run Idlib region, a war monitor said.
The fighters pulled back from the town of Khan Sheikun and the countryside to its south overnight and in the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
On Monday, a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into the Idlib region, sparking condemnation from Damascus as Ankara alleged air strikes had targeted its troops.
The convoy halted just north of Khan Sheikhun on Monday afternoon and remained there on Tuesday, after government forces took control of a section of the highway into the town.
Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said Monday morning’s strike targeted a rebel vehicle scouting the road in front of the Turkish convoy.
“The Syrian army in its own way sent a clear message to the Turkish regime by forcing convoys sent by Ankara to help the terrorists in Khan Sheikhun to come to a halt,” it said.
It was a “clear warning against any Turkish attempt to resuscitate the terrorists,” the paper said, adding that the strike had “Russian support.”
After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Since January, it has been administered by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance, which is led by jihadists from Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The region of some three million people was supposed to be protected by a Turkish-Russian buffer zone deal signed last year.
But government and Russian forces have subjected it to heavy bombardment since late April, killing more than 860 civilians, according to an Observatory toll.
The United Nations says the shelling and air strikes have also hit dozens of health facilities and caused more than 400,000 people to flee their homes.
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since the rebels first took arms following the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
Rival interventions by outside powers have turned it into a complex conflict with multiple battle fronts that has driven millions of civilians from their homes.