Donate Shop Register


Exclusive: Baptist Church in Bethlehem Declared Illegitimate By Palestinian Authority

EXCLUSIVE: BAPTIST CHURCH IN BETHLEHEM
DECLARED ILLEGITIMATE BY PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

THE ALGEMEINER
By, Dexter Van Zile
March 13, 2012

A week after Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told an audience of Evangelical Protestants from across the world that his government respected the rights of its Christian minorities, officials from the Palestinian Authority have informed Bethlehem pastor Rev. Naim Khoury that his church lacked the authority to function as a religious institution under the PA.

The church can still gather to pray, for now, but the PA’s decision conveyed on Saturday will have a real impact on the members of First Baptist, which endured numerous bomb attacks during the First Intifada.

“They said that our legitimacy as a church from a governmental point of view is not approved,” said Khoury’s son, Steven, who serves as an assistant pastor at First Baptist. “They said they will not recognize any legal paper work from our church. That includes birth certificates, wedding certificates and death certificates. Children are not even considered to be legitimate if they don’t have recognized paperwork.”

The irony, Steven said, is that the PA’s announcement comes right after the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. This conference, which took place from March 5 through March 9, 2012 was a gathering of approximately 600 Evangelical Protestants from across the globe (mostly from the United States) to discuss the theology of Christian Zionism, which some Evangelicals believe increases the prospect of violence in the Middle East and gives support to Israeli policies that they do not like.

During the opening night of the conference, Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad told the assembly that his government respected the rights of Christians. Palestinians celebrate religious holidays together, PA officials attend Christmas celebrations and even attend Midnight Mass for Christmas, Fayyad said.

“This is what it means to be a Palestinian,” Fayyad said, adding that the PA feels a deep sense of responsibility for the holy places and will allow unfettered access to places of spiritual significance in areas under its control.

Nevertheless, there is a sense among Christians in Bethlehem that anti-Christian animus has gotten worse in the city over the past few years, Khoury said. “People are always telling them, ‘Convert to Islam. Convert to Islam. It’s the true and right religion.’”

This is the second time the church has been told it is operating without PA sanction, Khoury said. Other churches in Bethlehem are left alone, said Khoury, who suggested that the church’s love for both the Jewish and Arab people and its belief that both can live in the land in peace may have played a role in the PA’s decision. Prior to the PA, the church, which was founded in 1980, never had a problem with its paperwork, Khoury said.

“We believe it’s people who don’t like what we’re doing and the message we offer,” he said.

The church’s message of reconciliation flies in the face of the propaganda that permeates Palestinian society. Muslim clerics routinely offer up anti-Semitic rants on PA television and so-called peace activists have turned the concrete sections of the security barrier in Bethlehem into a canvas for their propaganda, which in some instances proffers a troubling fatalism to its viewers.

For example one section of the security barrier near the Alrowad refugee camp in Bethlehem depicts two Palestinian youths throwing rocks and another  being arrested by Israeli soldiers. Alongside the image, the artist has written in French and English the phrase “We can’t live, So we wait for death.”

Khoury said the Palestinian Authority needs to treat all sects with equality and respect their rights. “The First Baptist Church in Bethlehem has demonstrated its value to the community over the years and proven itself to be a law-abiding church,” Khoury said.

Khoury said he will speak to members of Congress in the United States to draw attention to what is happening to First Baptist in Bethlehem.

“We did let them know that we’re not going to go quietly on this,” Khoury said. “We want our church to be fully recognized equally with all the other recognized denominations. Our church deserves the right to be equally recognized amongst all the other recognized denominations in the PA.”

Joann Magnuson, a long-time observer of Christian communities in the West Bank, said she has known the Khourys for at least 15 years.

“I know them to be serious Christians, busy caring for their flock and preaching the gospel of love and forgiveness,” she said. “It’s seems more than coincidence that the Christ at the Checkpoint conference ended and now the Khourys are being targeted.”

At the time of publication the PLO Mission in Washington, D.C. has not responded to The Algemeiner’s request for comment on these allegations. This story will be updated as information allows.

READ ARTICLE HERE

Other stories
1/10/2018
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster called on the state Senate to immediately pass H. 3643,...
1/10/2018
On December 31, 2017, the world lost a special soul and I lost a friend. Hannah Weiss trag...
1/10/2018
Read Her Powerful Response. “The fact that you felt the need to vandalize my office ...
1/10/2018
StandWithUs commends South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster who called on his state Senate...
1/9/2018
Israel bans 20 groups, including campus BDS clubs, from entering Jewish State...
1/9/2018
Yahya Mahamid, a 20-year old Israeli Arab raised in the city of Umm al-Fahm, describes bei...
1/4/2018
Dozens of Israelis and Iranians living in Israel expressed support for the people of Iran ...
1/4/2018
Messages of support for the people of Iran have poured into StandWithUs social media from ...
1/4/2018
A StandWithUs campaign featuring Israelis projects the message that "Israel stands with th...
1/4/2018
A Texas imam has apologized after issuing a video statement last month in which he said it...
1/2/2018
StandWithUs, an Israel education organization, brought a van full of Israeli products to t...
1/2/2018
The founder of an Islamic institute in Houston, Texas claimed that Judgment Day “wil...
1/2/2018
StandWithUs strongly condemns Imam Raed Saleh Al-Rousan`s speech calling for the killing o...
12/28/2017
The responses were pure rejection of a Jewish state — including dozens of pictures of Hi...
12/28/2017
Guatemala made history this week, becoming the second country to announce the decision to ...
12/28/2017
YOUNG ISRAELI SHARES HIS LIFE WITH AMERICAN STUDENTS...
12/22/2017
Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman describes the support he`s received from the South Flor...
12/22/2017
A professor at the University of Southern California (USC) suggested in an October lecture...
12/22/2017
It only takes one person to strive to make a difference. Sami Kuperberg is such a person. ...
12/21/2017
Student support limited despite student government BDS resolutions...

 

About Us
Get Involved
Resources
Shop For Israel
Social Media
StandWithUs Websites