Palestine (MNN) – Palestinian Christians face a lot of challenges when it comes to ministry in the Holy Land, the biggest of these being the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
Being a Palestinian Christian
In general, Christians in the area are Palestinian. Therefore, they are caught right in the middle of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. This happens regardless of whether they choose to be actively a part of the conflict or to separate themselves from it.
“Their houses get confiscated, their lands [were] confiscated. They are imprisoned within the wall Israel built around the Palestinian communities. Some of them had jobs in Jerusalem and now they cannot go to them. Some of them had their schools…” Bethlehem Bible College’s President Jack Sara explains.
Being a Christian does not shield these Palestinians from suffering alongside Muslims because they share the Palestinian nationality. The two groups suffer as a whole.
An Honor and a Challenge
Still, regardless of sharing a nationality, it is a challenge to be a minority living among the majority Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims. However, this challenge is also a cause for honor and potential.
“It’s an honor because we are serving Jesus in His land. Of course, all earth is God’s earth, but that specific place has, I would say, [a] soft spot in God’s heart since He came and did a lot of things there,” Sara says.
“Most of the Bible is written there, so Christians boast about this…Biblical stories sometimes even come alive when you see the specific location of where it happened. So, Christians carry that kind of honor. At the same time, I believe that Christians there need to be challenged to really live true spirituality, true Christianity, and not just to give into…a nominal kind of like Christianity.”
While Palestinians do not yet face Christian persecution, they do deal with the daily pressures and challenges of living as a minority. According to Sara, evangelical Christians make up a very small percentage of the area’s population. Sara says some Christians live in fear and feel threatened among the two majorities. It can be challenging to persevere when these Christians also see and feel the weight of being little in number.
Churches have been burned down by orthodox Jews. Police have done nothing when this happens. A fear exists that as the Muslim community in the area grows, so will the threat for Islamic extremism and Christian persecution, such as has been seen in other parts of the region, e.g., ISIS.
“The whole region is boiling with [a] kind of like persecution against the Christians,” Sara says.
Hope in the Chaos
Despite these feelings, there is good happening in the land of Palestine.
Sara says every day he sees new believers who are committed to serving Christ in Palestine and Israel. For Sara, it is not about the Palestinian masses claiming to be Christian, but the kind of faith these Christians exhibit. The Christians he sees are people being trained and equipped. They have a vision, a prayer, and a zeal to serve Christ in their homeland.
“It was very exciting that God had not left that area. There are churches that are being planted in Jerusalem…and Bethlehem, and Nazareth, and even in Gaza. There are Christians who, I would say [are] hardly surviving, but yet, their witness is seen and what they’re doing in compassion and love towards our people. I think it’s exciting because we are the salt of that earth…and we want to be true to our calling in being [a] light as well to the Palestinians,” Sara explains.
Pray for your brothers and sisters in Palestine. Pray for the church leaders to have wisdom. Also, pray for the body of Christ to have the courage to speak boldly into people’s lives. Sara asks for prayers for Christians in the area to prophetically speak into what’s happening around them, and for their fear to be taken away.
“It might be scary, but at the same time, God called us to bring the message of salvation to the Muslims and to the Jews,” Sara says.
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(Photo courtesy of MissyKel via Flickr)