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.

Women’s key role in the Sudan protests that toppled Omar Al-Bashir

Updated 3 min 54 sec ago

Women’s key role in the Sudan protests that toppled Omar Al-Bashir

  • Sudan's public morality laws targeted women
  • Women were beaten and harassed at protests

DUBAI: It began with protests over the price of bread. But it was an image of Alaa Salah, a young woman dressed in white, standing on  a car with her hand pointing up to the sky, that captured the world’s attention as the protests led to the toppling of Omar Al-Bashir.

For some women, the revolution was not just about bread — it was about regaining a feeling of safety inside their homes and fighting a regime that oppressed women.

Ihsan Abdulaziz, speaking from her Khartoum home, remembered the knock at her door. It was members of the security forces. They had come to arrest her.

“They didn’t even give me time to pack. I put on my abaya and veil and left with them,” she told Arab News, recalling the moment she was snatched away from her family.

Abdulaziz, a leader of the new Sudanese women’s movement, was arrested on Jan. 5, 2019. She was held for 58 days without charge or explanation.

She described the conditions of Omdurman women’s prison.

“The rooms were overcrowded. One of the cells, meant for solitary confinement, had 5 people inside it.”

Abdulaziz said they tried to fit two other women into the room, one of whom was believed to be over 75.

The female guards singled out detainees, treating them disrespectfully and delaying the delivery of medicine.

“Our prison was still better than others,” Abdulaziz added.

Abdulaziz, who had been detained on three previous occasions, learned that security forces beat up her son so severely that both his hands were in casts. “Even our kids, those of activists, are targeted.”

The associate director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division, Jehanne Henry, said that thousands had been arrested and that women were among those being kept in custody without being charged

But the participation of Sudanese women in demonstrations is not new.

“Sudanese women have always been willing and strong to protest,” Henry told Arab News.

Salah’s white garment and golden earrings are inspired by the outfits that Sudanese women wore during revolutions in the 1960s and 1980s.

Women were active in other revolutions too, such as those in 2011 and 2013.

But there are more women taking to Sudan’s streets now.

“These protests have a much wider base, the Sudanese Professionals Association has mobilized so many professions,” Henry explained.

Women from all classes, interests, occupations and ages took to the streets this time.

“It is no longer limited to politically active women, all the women were out in the street,” Abdulaziz said.

Some would even estimate that almost 60 percent of the protesters were women, she added.

A Sudanese architecture graduate, who is living in the UAE, said most of her female friends and relatives participated in the demonstrations and sit-ins.

“Even my older aunts and grandmother took part in the protests, even those who were not politically engaged,” Ebaa Elghali told Arab News.

Women were the most disadvantaged group under Bashir’s regime which is why they were actively protesting against it, Elghali added.

Human Rights Watch said that public morality laws, implemented by Bashir, targeted women and curtailed their basic freedoms.

In 2009 Sudanese women started a movement as a protest against these laws.

“They are (the laws) dedicated to control the clothes of Sudanese women, many faced unjust treatment because of it,” Sudanese activist Tahani Abbas told Arab News.

“Sometimes they say the clothes are indecent, but they never specify how. You could be fully covered and they still won't like it,” Abdulaziz explained.

Although the regime claimed to follow Sharia, several Sudanese women said the government was as far removed from Islam as it could be.

Women faced various violations during the protests, such as “beatings and harassment by national security during arrests,” Henry said.

Some women were starting to report incidents of sexual harassment and assault, she added.