Arson in Jerusalem is reminder of the threat evangelists face

By November 2, 2007

Israel (MNN) — Arson is strongly suspected in a church fire in western Jerusalem last week.

Compass Direct reports that the arsonists forcibly entered the Narkis Street Baptist Church and set fire to the sanctuary in three places.  hankfully the damage was minor, in part because the building caretaker heard shouting as the incident was taking place. Sixty chairs were damaged, in addition to some smoke and water damage.

This incident is a stinging reminder of an arson fire that razed a church on the same location 25 years earlier. 

The church is known for its evangelistic effort. The Jewish militants suspected in the case might deem this as a reason for the attack, according to Voice of the Martyrs USA 's Tom
Nettleton.  "The word that was used is that 'they're converting Jewish people to Christianity,' so that is considered to be a dangerous thing. That's considered to be making trouble for Jews to offer them the message of salvation through Jesus Christ."

Different stories about the attitude toward Christianity in Israel comes from different people.  "There are some places where pressure is brought to bear against Christians,
especially those that are openly evangelizing," said Nettleton. 

One of the pastors of the four churches that make the building their home has received threatening letters from Jewish militants in the last few years. It is believed that an anti-missionary organization named "Yad L'Achim" was the source of the
threats. The group claimed the church was part of a "dangerous sect" because of their evangelistic effort.

While the incident may have created some fear, Nettleton hopes it won't last long. "There was a building 25 years ago on this property that was burned to the ground. Now there is another fires started. Hopefully 25 years from now there will still be a Christian church functioning on that property, and more people will be coming to know Christ."

Insurance may not cover the costs of damage repairs because the security alarm was turned
off. Nettleton said Christians can pray. "What we need to pray for, and
what we hope for, is that the church will continue to be a bold witness for Christ and that they will stand, regardless of the threats, regardless of the people that maybe don't want them to be there."

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