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
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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.


Tunisian workers kidnapped in Libya

Updated 16 February 2019
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Tunisian workers kidnapped in Libya

TUNIS: Militiamen have kidnapped a group of Tunisian workers near the Libyan capital Tripoli, demanding Tunis release a comrade, the foreign ministry and a rights activist said.
"The foreign ministry is following the case of the Tunisian citizens... kidnapped by armed Libyan elements near Zawiya", the ministry said on its Facebook page late Friday.
Rights activist Mustapha Abdelkebir said the armed group behind Thursday's kidnappings was demanding the release of one of its members held in Tunisia.
The kidnap victims were workers at Zawiya oil refinery, Tunisian media said. A diplomatic source told AFP that 14 workers had been taken hostage.
"The minister has spoken to his Libyan counterpart to insist on the protection of the detainees, accelerate their release and ensure that they return safe and sound", the ministry said in a statement.
Tunisia reopened a consulate in Libya in 2018, after shutting it three years earlier due to the kidnapping of 10 Tunisian diplomats.
The Libyan militia which carried out the 2015 kidnapping had demanded the release of one of its leaders, Walid Glib, detained in Tunisia as part of a counter-terrorism investigation.
The diplomats were released after several days and Walid Glib was later deported to Tripoli.
Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said it had no information on Thursday's abduction and that it was looking into the matter.
The country has been mired in chaos since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, as two rival administrations and numerous militias grapple for power.