Arabs, Jews Find Unity in Christ

Arab and Jewish Christians in Israel are praying together as violence in the Holy Land threatens to destroy peace efforts.

A Palestinian Christian and an American-born Messianic Jew, both living in Jerusalem, spoke to Religion Today about the situation.

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Christians from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria met with Messianic Jews and other Christians from Israel and around the world in Jerusalem Oct. 1-10. About 1,200 Christians
from 150 nations came to pray and tell what God is doing in their countries. The annual convocation was co-sponsored by Vision for Israel, a ministry operated by Barry Segal, a
Messianic Jew.

Violence broke out three days before the convocation began. More than 80 people have died in fighting between Israeli troops andPalestinian protesters, the worst violence in more than a
decade, according to news reports. International leaders are lobbying to get Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to end the fighting.

As fighting escalated, convocation leaders set aside their prepared program to worship God and pray, Segal said. "Because of the heavy spiritual tension and the violence, we took one night to just praise God and dispel the darkness."

Arab and Christian leaders discussed their differences. "There was a time for Arabs to share and for Jews to share," Segal said. At the end he and a Palestinian pastor read from Romans 8:35: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?"

The evening "was a tremendous move forward in terms of reconciliation and prayer for each other - to see the fulfillment of God's purposes for both communities," Segal said.

Meanwhile, in the Sinai desert, Palestinian, Jewish, and Western Christians were praising God together at a celebration held by a Palestinian ministry. Twenty-two supporters of Musalaha, a ministry of reconciliation between Jewish and Arab Christians, spent three days at Mount Sinai "singing and listening to God - asking Him what He is calling us to do," Salim Munayer, a Palestinian Christian, said.

"We prayed for hours in the desert, asking God for mercy. We knew the situation was bad but we continued on to show that there is another way to deal with this," Munayer said. Musalaha fostersreconciliation by inviting Arab and Jewish Christians to live and work together in the desert for three weeks. During that time, Munayer and others preach about the need for Christians to bereconciled to each other.

Palestinian and Jewish Christians in Israel are separated by politics and theological disagreements, but their common faith binds them together, Segal and Munayer said in separate interviews. Jewish and Arab Christians may not agree on all issues relating to the land of Israel and the Palestinian people, but they refuse to be divided, Munayer said.

"There is a deep commitment on both sides for reconciliation and unity in the body of Christ. The fact that there is disagreement between us is not a cause for division," he said. Segal agreed: "There is an understanding that this is not a political issue between us as brothers, but it is a biblical issue that God's Word is settling."

Loving one another in Christ is the key to building relationships, Munayer said. "We sit together and we learn together. We listen to each other and we try to understand one another. It takes spiritual maturity to love a brother in Christ when you disagree with him."

Palestinian and Jewish Christian congregations work together when they can. Vision for Israel cooperates with Arab churches to distribute food, clothes, and medicine to the needy in their communities, Segal said. The group also works with Messianic congregations to help Jewish refugees settling in Israel.

Palestinian and Messianic Jewish congregations formed a "ring of prayer" around Jerusalem, Segal said. Twelve ministries pray daily and worship God in two-hour shifts to keep a 24-hour "prayer watch" over the city, he said. There are about 5,000 Messianic Jews in 70 congregations and 3,000 "born-again" Palestinians in 40 churches in Israel and the West Bank territories, he said.

Christians outside Israel should pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Segal said. "Not necessarily a political peace, but the peace that passes all understanding. Pray for the Prince of Peace to return." Christians should not place blame or use prophecy to justify the violence, but instead should pray for the protection of all people in Israel, Munayer said.

Religion Today - January 26, 2001

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