Evangelicals in Israel and Gaza: “Our faith in Jesus compels us to call for an end to all violent activities”
More evangelical voices on the ground speak out as the death toll keeps rising and attacks continue.
Protestante Digital · 13 OCTOBER 2023 · 15:10 CET
More voices of Christians and evangelical leaders are speaking out about the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas as the days go by and the death and wounded toll continues to rise.
Already over 1,300 people have been killed on Israeli territory and more than 1,500 in Gaza, while at least 3,200 and more than 6,000 are wounded.
The situation is now particularly serious in Gaza with electricity supplies cut off, as the only power plant in the city has stopped operating due to a lack of fuel.
“My family and I feel fear and anxiety due to the heavy bombardments… we feel that the house will fall. It is a permanent earthquake”, a Christian resident in Gaza told the Open Doors organisation.
He added that they “try to hug our children and relieve them of fear and terror, and many times we cannot [comfort them] from the force of the strikes”.
800 Christians in Gaza
According to Open Doors, in Gaza there are “about 800 Palestinian Christians of different Christian denominations in Gaza. The churches in Gaza cancelled all their services last weekend due to the current war and the bombings of the Israeli air force”.
For the Gazan Christian to whom Open Doors spoke with, this war “seems different from any previous escalations; we were not able to sleep for two days because the bombing is severe at night”.
“We pray that love and peace will prevail in our country, and I ask for a prayer for God’s protection, that the war will end quickly, and that the Lord will meet all needs, and that we can be the light in the middle of this total darkness and reflect the light and love of Christ in Gaza”, he said.
“The siege of Gaza must end”.
Another of the voices contacted by Spanish news website Protestante Digital is Jack Sara, general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of the Middle East and North Africa and president of Bethlehem Bible College, in the West Bank, who defines the current escalation of violence as a “significant and distressing conflict”.
Sara appeals for a cessation of violence to a renewed meditation on Bible passages such as Psalms 46:1 or Proverbs 2:6. “Our faith in Jesus, who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, compels us to call for a cessation of all violent civilian and military activities that bring harm to both the Palestinian and Israeli populations”.
“We are saddened by acts that target civilians, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or faith. We pray for sincere and good-faith dialogue and mediation for peace”, he said.
For the head of the Evangelical Alliance for the Middle East and North Africa, it is important to “address the root causes of the problem” in order to reach a “viable peace”, and he focuses on the status of Palestine.
“Palestinians have been experiencing ongoing injustice and displacement for more than 75 years. The siege of Gaza must end. Oppression, walls, sieges and colonisation cannot bring security and peace”, Sara adds.
In a statement, he also shares a number of reasons for prayer. Among them he mentions “the church in Gaza”, that it " will be light and salt to their community during these days”.
In particular, he asks for prayer for some of the students of Bethlehem Bible College, who are in the Strip. “We have some students and graduates in Gaza and they are living in a dire situation right now”, he stresses.
“Peace and reconciliation will require listening and working with all sides”
The representative of the World Evangelical Alliance at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Wissam al-Saliby, also answered Protestante Digital's questions on how to start talking about peace in the face of the situation and what local and worldwide evangelical communities can contribute to the process.
"In addition to discipleship and witnessing to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I believe that evangelical churches in the Middle East need to develop the theology and practice of peacemaking ” , he said.
For Al-Saliby, “in Lebanon as well as in Israel and Palestine, there are exceptional initiatives of peacemaking, reconciliation and healing from the wounds of violence. But these initiatives need to grow and be replicated on a larger scale. It is our vocation to be peacemakers and to pursue His Kingdom here on earth ” .
Regarding the traditional support for Israel by many evangelical leaders in the West, Al-Saliby pointed out that they should first partner with “local churches and ministries in the Holy Land and in the Arab world that are working for reconciliation and laying the foundations for a just peace”.
“The conflict has always generated a lot of polarisation and dehumanisation. Peace and reconciliation will require listening to and working with all 'sides' and creating opportunities for dialogue, while not shying away from addressing the systemic injustice and inequality that fuels conflict”, he added.
“Please pray for local and international peacemakers among evangelicals and Christians, as well as in the Arab and Jewish worlds”, concluded Al-Saliby.
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