by Marty Duren
Recently, I visited Israel. I saw the popular tour holy sites: the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of the Beatitudes, the Church of the Nativity, the Old City, the place where ancient churches say Jesus ascended back to heaven, and more. It was a great reminder of the historicity of our faith.
On two occasions I had the privilege to sit with fellow believers who were able to trace their family history in the Holy Land all the way back to the time of Christ. Neither of these men is Jewish. They are both Palestinian.
Amid the frequent news of bombings, knife attacks, settlement building, and various retaliatory actions on both sides, many Christians in the West have lost the fact that we have Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahur, and other places in the West Bank in Israel.
And many of them feel forgotten.
They need encouragement. They need prayer. If you are so inclined, here are a few ways to pray for them:
Pray for clarity in sharing the gospel. In the West Bank, every child is categorized as either Muslim or Christian. Each child’s family determines the selection. As a result, cultural religion is high on both sides.
Many who come to genuine faith in Christ end up in an evangelical church. Those trapped in cultural Christianity need to hear and understand the gospel clearly.
Pray for economic development. According to stats I was given, the average unemployment rate in the West Bank is 30 percent. In Bethlehem, 28 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The average job pays local minimum wage, between $300-400 a month.
One young Palestinian Christian I talked to makes about 10 shekels an hour (currently around $3.40). This lack of opportunity is leading many younger Palestinian Christians to leave for economic opportunities in other countries.
Pray for continued peace between Muslims and Christians. My conversations in Bethlehem and my observations in the wider West Bank show that the Muslim and Christian populations live mostly at peace.
They work together, eat together, play sports together, and go to school together. Their identity as Palestinians and as oppressed people brings them together in a way their respective religious beliefs do not divide.
As the share of the population in the West Bank is approximately 98 percent Muslim, Christians will benefit from peace between them.
Pray not only for the peace of Jerusalem, but also for Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza City. The challenges facing the residents of Israel and both Palestinian Territories are immense.
There are generations of distrust, hatred, and violence. Some of the animosity extends back to the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael. Will peace ever come before the Prince of Peace comes? Maybe not; but we can pray that it does.
Pray for the Bethlehem Bible College. This evangelical college and seminary has been training pastors and other learners (including Muslims) since 1979.
BBC is an evangelical, inter-denominational Bible college—the product of a vision to provide a place where Palestinian students could study and serve their native land.
Many (if not most) Palestinian believers cannot travel internationally for theological study. Bethlehem Bible College is crucial to the development and growth of Christians in the West Bank.
In a visceral way—and in some ways literally—Palestinians are imprisoned in their own territories. They do not have freedom of movement, and military crackdowns are common.
Many suffer from mental and emotional trauma as a result of the 50-year occupation. Some of them are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should remember them.
“Remember those in prison, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.” Hebrews 13:3
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