For the first time the Baraka Presbyterian Church, located in Bethlehem, added their support for nonviolent action to that of other denominations opposed to the occupation of Palestine by Israel.
The old fashioned religion used to rest on the premise that this earth is not for us; suffering is part of it and prayer and worship are the ways to get closer to an afterlife with God, explained Sami Awad, Executive Director of the Holy Land Trust. Evangelicals believed that getting involved in earthly problems or politics were better left alone.
For a long time, Presbyterians and other conservative religions took little interest in social problems. In America, most were Republicans and pro-Israel. Israeli organizations supported and funded their political non-involvement. “Most [parishioners] were unaware of the problems around them; but that is changing now,” Awad said.
At a meeting held on December 20th, a new philosophy of active church support became evident. For the first time the Baraka Presbyterian Church, located in Bethlehem, added their support for nonviolent action to that of other denominations opposed to the occupation of Palestine by Israel.
The purpose of the meeting was to recruit the Presbyterian Church to participate in political activities. A poster was distributed. Its bold heading:
Christmas Behind the Wall, included an invitation by the Baraka Presbyterian Church to attend a Christmas celebration ceremony near the site of Rachel’s Tomb.
The outdoor stage backdrop was the huge Israeli constructed wall. Painted from end to end with pictures and slogans, the graffiti appealed to hope for the tumbling of the grotesque monstrosity and for ultimate reconciliation and peace.
The meeting drew a crowd of over a hundred church members and supporters to hear music and speeches in Arabic and in English delivered by clerics and political leaders.
“What’s happening is the church is waking up,” Awad said, “… more than prayer, it’s a new theology.”
Social justices, the environment, women’s issues, and slavery are among concerns today and the new philosophy is that we can do something about this suffering. Evangelical Christians are saying that the church is more than prayer; the message of Jesus Christ is that we can work to alleviate suffering here on earth.
Palestinians are suffering from Israel’s occupation. As long as the church stuck to prayer and worship and didn’t become involved in the outside world, Israel was content and supportive. Awad said that now that it has become more than just prayer, Israel feels threatened.
“Christ at the Checkpoint,” is a weeklong conference to be held March 5-9, 2012 that will explore hope in the midst of conflict. The aim is to provide Christians who take the Bible seriously, to prayerfully seek awareness of issues of peace, justice and reconciliation.
Objectives of the conference are to expose the realities of the injustices in the Palestinian Territories and to create awareness of the obstacles to reconciliation and peace. Goals also include motivating participants to become advocates for the reconciliation work of the church in Palestine/Israel; and to empower and encourage the Palestinian church.
The Second International Conference, sponsored by the Bethlehem Bible College, is an unprecedented international gathering of Christians in Bethlehem.
“Christ at the Checkpoint” is a platform for serious engagement with Biblical Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue among all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum. It represents a considerable leap forward for Christians in the direction of a resolution for peace.
For more information visit the Christ at the Checkpoint website at www.christatthecheckpoint.com or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.