Christians in many parts of the Middle East are experiencing persecution as the militant Islamic group ISIS is killing, enslaving and torturing men, women and children. We have seen the horrific images and our hearts are torn for our brothers in the faith. Christians living in Israel and the Palestinian Authority also experience persecution, leading to torture and sometimes death—but not at the hands of the Jewish people! Radical Islamic groups target them. Concerns about ISIS infiltrating the Land are very real.
In spite of the difficulties Christians face, Israel is the best place in the Middle East for Christians! Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest living in Nazareth, says, “Among all the nations in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the Christian population has grown. Everywhere else it has shrunk—including Bethlehem [under the rule of the Palestinian Authority]! It is the only country in which Christians are not persecuted by the state for practicing their faith. It is the only Middle East nation where Christians have full access to education, business opportunities and political participation.”
Yet, Father Naddaf is not safe from threats. Like Baptist pastors Naim and Steven Khoury in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, he receives frequent threats from Muslims who hate those who stand with the Bible, the God of Israel and the Israel of God.
These men and others like them are reviled and despised by childhood friends, Arab politicians and sadly even other Christian Palestinian leaders. Father Naddaf has received more death threats than he can count. Naim Khoury has been shot, and his life threatened on numerous occasions. Yet these courageous men stand strong in their beliefs.<img style="height: auto; max-width: 100%; display: block; -webkit-user-drag: none;" title="Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Naddaf encourages righteous action among his congregants: “In a day when Christians throughout the Middle East are being beheaded for their faith, Christians in Israel are free to practice their faith, free to pursue any career, free to travel where they want, marry the one they love, [and] pursue whatever kind of work that they desire. Should we not celebrate this remarkable freedom? Should we not participate in the cost of providing this freedom? Should only Jews serve in the IDF and not our children too?”
The problem, Naddaf notes, is that most Israeli Christians live in communities dominated by Islam, places where local governments and commerce impose that religion’s mandate to subdue anyone who refuses to affirm the god called “Allah who has no Son” and whose foremost prophet is Mohammed. It is a system that deliberately places non-Islamic citizens in a subservient category with limited rights, limited freedom and constant threat of persecution, even death. Based on the Koran, Islam’s holy book, these citizens are called dhimmis.
Throughout the years, Naddaf found himself telling fellow Christians over and over again that they do not have to be dhimmis because Israel is not an Islamic state. It is not Iran, Syria, Jordan or Egypt. Israel is a Jewish state, yes, but it is also a democratic state, one in which all its citizens share equal rights and, accordingly, opportunities. According to Naddaf, Christian citizens of Israel have a responsibility to themselves and their families to embrace those rights, to pursue those opportunities, and to do so regardless of censure in local communities dominated by Islam. What’s more, to ensure their rights and opportunities, Christian citizens of Israel have an obligation to support the Jewish state, to stand with it and defend it even with their lives.
Bridges for Peace stands with these courageous Christian leaders. For many years we have raised money to provide food for local Christians who are constantly at risk for their beliefs—not from Israel but from Muslim neighbors.
Some, like Father Naddaf have decided to stand up for their rights as Israeli citizens and others like those in Bethlehem whose very existence as Christians is a provocation. Many times these Christians lose their jobs while, simultaneously, friends and family members disown them. Naddaf says, “Islamic leaders offer financial security. When Christians chose to stand with Israel, they lose that security. They need to know they are not alone, that their needs will be met.”
Bridges for Peace is providing food for 26,000 people each month. We help many new immigrants, Holocaust survivors, children at risk, and Arabic-speaking Christians facing persecution in the predominantly Muslim communities in which they live.
Your gift to the Food Project or Arab Family Assistance, will show these loved of the Lord that they are not alone. Help us to be sons of encouragement to all the people of Israel.
Blessings from Israel,
Rebecca J Brimmer
International President and CEO
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