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.


US is trying to make Iran ‘surrender’ through sanctions says Iran’s vice president

Updated 15 August 2018
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US is trying to make Iran ‘surrender’ through sanctions says Iran’s vice president

  • Iranian vice president Eshaq Jahangiri accused the US of trying to force Iran to surrender through the imposition of sanctions
  • The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of US dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector

The United States is trying to make Iran surrender through the imposition of sanctions, Iranian vice president Eshaq Jahangiri said on Wednesday.
New US sanctions against Iran took effect last week, and President Donald Trump said companies doing business with the country will be barred from the United States.
“The first priority for all of us under a sanctions situation is to work toward managing the country in a way that brings the least amount of damage to people’s lives,” Fars News quoted Jahangiri as saying. “America is trying by applying various pressures on our society to force us to retreat and surrender.”
The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of US dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector, though the toughest measures targeting oil exports do not take effect for four more months.
Few US companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.
President Hassan Rouhani made similar comments to Jahangiri, although he did not specifically refer to the United States.
“We will not let the enemy bring us to our knees,” Rouhani said, according to state TV. “If the enemy thinks they will defeat us they will take this hope to the grave with them.”
Washington had said Iran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept an offer by Trump to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal than the international accord struck in 2015. Trump pulled the United States out of this agreement with world powers in May.
“America itself took actions which destroyed the conditions for negotiation,” Rouhani said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “There were conditions for negotiation and we were negotiating. They destroyed the bridge themselves,” he said. “If you’re telling the truth then come now and build the bridge again.”
Iranian officials have already rejected Trump’s offer and on Monday Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, also ruled out the possibility of talks.
The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment and a rial currency which has lost half its value since April. The reimposition of sanctions could also make the economic situation worse.
Rouhani said the economy is the biggest problem facing the country.
Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp price rises of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies.