Christmas celebrations in the Middle East marked with security issues

By December 24, 2007

Middle East (MNN) — Security has been beefed up to protect tourists in Bethlehem and Jerusalem over the Christmas season.

Israeli and Palestinian forces have cooperated to ease the congestion of visitors through the checkpoint into Bethlehem. In addition, the Palestinian security chief promised roughly 1,500 Palestinian police during the festivities.

Tourism to Bethlehem has grown 60 percent in the past three months. That may be due, in part, to  churches abroad projecting an image of safety and encouraging Christians to show solidarity and visit.

Over the festivities hangs the pall of the failed Annapolis Summit. At the same time, Israel and Palestine have opened their peace talks, already in discord. Palestinians have already begun to call for a halt to settlement building, and Israel wants a crackdown on militants.

SAT 7's David Harder says the whole situation is tenuous for believers in the Middle East.  "There's tremendous pressure on Christians to convert to Islam. Be praying that their churches would grow and that they'd be protected. In many places, Christians are persecuted outright. They're not allowed to build churches. Converts have a very difficult time." 

Harder says they're encouraging the Christian population, standing near five percent in this area.  "We can be broadcasting into these countries; we can be bringing Christ's message. It's very important that we have this opportunity, and it's wonderful that during this Christmas season, we can be playing shows that help our viewers who don't know that much about Christianity to see what Christians believe about their Savior."

Pray that God will use these Christmas programs to encourage Christians during this holiday season and to help viewers better understand the true meaning of Christmas. Pray also for the funds to come in to enable the SAT-7 ARABIC team to produce all the shows they are planning to create in the new year.

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