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Islamic Persecution of Christians

Islam dominates the Middle East, subjecting minorities, women and children to widespread oppression. Christians and Jews are especially targeted, reduced to a state of subservience or dhimmitude

Islam Dominates the Middle East

Palestinian Christians

Under siege and without protection, the Christian population under Palestinian rule has dwindled with each passing year suffering from a consistent pattern of Islamic intimidation and aggression ...
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Sudanese father and child in Jerusalem's Old City (ICEJ)

Sudanese Christians

In recent years thousands of African refugees have crossed into Israel, fleeing Muslim warlords in Sudan and persecution in Egypt. The stories of the atrocities experienced by these Sudanese refugees are horrific but that's not the end of the story... Learn more »

Recommended Books:

The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude
by Bat Ye'or

The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam
by Bat Ye'or

Useful Links:

The Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East »
Committed to educating the public, the media, and elected officials about the discrimination, intimidation, forced conversion, and violence that Christians face throughout the Middle East, especially under the Palestinian Authority.

The Voice of the Martyrs »
Aids Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ, fulfilling the Great Commission, and educating the world about the ongoing persecution of Christians

International Christian Concern »
A Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness in the US regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department.

A Biblical Stand On Zionism II

Two Sides, One Coin

The biblical doctrine of the land is a twofold one, with each principle representing one side of the same coin. The two principles are:

a) The land belongs to the Jewish people without a doubt. God expresses this throughout the scripture through many promises, confirmed through a covenant.

b) The right of domicile on the land and the right to enjoy the blessings of that land are based on Israel’s spiritual condition.

We have to look at both sides in order to keep us from taking an unbalanced and extremist view. If we neglect the first principle and focus purely on the required righteousness (which is not yet achieved by large parts of Israel) we are in danger of slipping on the path of replacement theology, and possibly anti-Semitism.

If on the other hand we neglect the second principle and focus solely on the land issue, we are tempted to embrace a right-wing nationalist agenda and our cause of Zionism is not biblical but political.

Historical Verification

These two principles are verified within the whole course of Israel’s history. Whenever Israel followed their God and had God-fearing kings, the borders of Israel enlarged quickly and with ease, as the writer of Chronicles puts it: “… and the LORD brought the fear of him [David] upon all nations.” The neighbouring people subdued themselves under the rulership of Israel and paid tributes.

Yet as soon as Israel and its kings left their God, it was God himself who raised the neighbouring countries against them stirring up resistance from within and even adjusting the borders of Israel’s territory. “In those days the LORD began to cut off parts of Israel; and Hazael conquered them in all the territory of Israel.” Often the adversaries of Israel were rendered powerless as soon as Israel humbled herself under the hand of God. But as their tragic history tells us, the enemies of Israel were allowed to uproot the chosen people from the Holy Land twice.

In short: Israel in her entire history never had a conflict over borders or land issues, but Israel found herself in a constant conflict with her God! Out of that, political and military troubles arose which threatened the security and very existence of the nation. But as soon as Israel sought the Lord, He himself became a fiery wall around his people.


The modern restoration of the state of Israel is without doubt the greatest miracle of modern history. Be it the return of the Jews from more than 100 nations, the replanting of the land or the reconstruction of the cities of Israel, they all carry the clear watermark of fulfilled biblical promises.

However Israel returns today to their land largely as a secular people, which barely differs hardly from any other nation. It is only a small minority in Israel which sees the hand of God in its restoration. It is mostly the pioneering spirit of the founding fathers, the supremacy of the IDF or other human achievements which are named as the creating source of modern Israel. High abortion rates, entanglement in eastern religions and open moral decline characterize the Israel of today.

God will therefore use corrective measures in order to gain the attention of His chosen people. Like a loving father disciplines his children, so also God will judge His people in order to correct them and draw them finally to Himself. This can mean that for a limited time God might adjust the borders of the land and that the pressure on God’s people will even increase.

One thing, however, is for sure: God is not going to uproot his people. God did not restore Israel in order to exile her again, but rather to reconcile her to Himself. All biblical accounts on the end-time restoration of Israel end with a picture painted by Paul: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”


Consequently the question of the boundaries of the land of Israel cannot be understood outside the context of Israel’s spiritual condition. As the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem we therefore take the following position:

  1. We wish to affirm that the land of Canaan is the everlasting possession of the Jewish people. No other people have a biblical right to this land. It belongs to the Jewish people by divine covenant. Nevertheless Israel’s right of domicile is dependent on her reconciled relationship with her God. According to Ezekiel 36:24-28, only a nation anointed by the spirit of God affords her the right to dwell in the land. This day is coming, albeit through a process of affliction.
  2. Given that the Jewish people have returned to Israel a secular people, correction and judgment are to be expected. Remember, domicile is conditional upon Israel’s reconciled relationship with her God. It is naïve for Christians to stand on God’s Word concerning all the land bequeathed to her when she remains largely unfaithful to God. Land shrinkage is God’s doing since He is determined to correct and save her.
  3. However, since God in His Word has only promised two exiles and two returns and since these have already taken place, He is now determined to save her through affliction. She will not be exiled again!
  4. If Israel is therefore going to lose land, do not be amazed at this. Rather embrace your responsibility to pray for her righteousness and salvation, knowing these alone will secure her domicile upon all of the land bequeathed to her. God has promised to save her.
  5. God’s process of dealing with Israel does not legitimize those like the PLO, Hamas, etc. who are actively working for Israel’s destruction. We speak out against this evil and we must stand against all forms of anti-Semitism. We must warn our nations not to be part of any scheme to divide the land!
  6. Judgment and correction are a divine prerogative. We must stand with Zion, help her, defend her and speak out on her behalf.
  7. If God should allow that further parts of the land of Israel be relinquished, we fully understand the sorrow it will bring for many settlers who will be uprooted. We pray for them and do our utmost to comfort, support them and give them hope.
  8. We must recognize that a great visitation of God is also coming to the Arab world. The Word of God promises a great revival among the neighbouring countries of Israel.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding

Executive Director, Emeritus
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

Dr. Jürgen Bühler

Executive Director
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

A Biblical Stand On Zionism I

The current events in Israel have left many Christian Zionists puzzled and confused. Often we hear the question: Why does God not intervene? The Israeli Knesset decided to disengage from Gaza within this year, territory that according to the Bible belongs to Israel’s Promised Land. A few years ago Christian supporters of Israel were confronted with the same question when Israel withdrew its troops from Jericho and later on from large parts of Judea and Samaria.

Israel’s withdrawal from the biblical land and a possible Palestinian state on what the Bible calls “Eretz Israel” is a reality which does not correspond to the biblical understanding of many Christian Zionists.

In the following, we will address two key aspects of biblical doctrine relating to the “land question” which can help us to understand the current events in Israel.

An Unshakable Promise

Israel’s right to possess the land of Canaan is founded upon divine promises. Not just once, but time and time again God assured Abraham that he would give him and his descendants a land of promise.

He said to lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land, which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. (Genesis 13:14)

The same divine promises are given to the patriarchs Isaac and Jacob. They were confirmed to Moses, repeated in the Psalms and can be found throughout the prophetic writings. They are biblical promises, which cannot be surpassed in strength and commitment.

In Genesis 15 we find that God defined the borders of the Promised Land and corroborates this promise by making a covenant with Abraham.

On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates. (Genesis 15:18)

It was customary in biblical times, that the establishment of a covenant was accompanied by the slaughtering of an animal. It was divided in two halves with each half placed opposite each other. Both covenant partners would together pass through the halves, confirming their intention of commitment (see also Jeremiah 34:18).

However it is important to note that when God made this covenant with Abraham, He alone in the form of a fiery furnace and a burning torch passed through the animals while Abraham was sleeping (Genesis 15:12). The covenant God made was thus a one-sided covenant through which God expressed: “No matter what you and your descendants will do, today I make a covenant with you Abraham, to give you and your descendants this land as inheritance.”

It is this divine covenant and a multitude of promises on which biblical Zionism is founded. It is the faith in a covenant keeping God, which is the bedrock of our support of the Jewish people and the land of Israel. “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” (Psalm 89:34)

An Unshakable Condition

The Bible, however, not only teaches about the right to possess but also about the right to inhabit the land. The book Deuteronomy, which records the last message of Moses before Israel conquered Canaan, stipulates more than any other book that there are firm conditions to living in the land of Canaan. Like a red thread these conditions are found through the whole book of Deuteronomy.

Therefore you shall keep every commandment which I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land which you cross over to possess, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD swore to give your fathers, to them and their descendants. (Deuteronomy 11:8)

If Israel wants to enter the Land and dwell there for an extended period of time, they need to live there as a holy people. That means: the right of possession is clearly anchored in the word and promise of God. The land is forever hers. But the right of domicile is based on the spiritual condition of the Jewish people.

Deuteronomy 28, the chapter of “blessings and curses” sums this up in a rather dramatic way: If Israel walks in the ways of their God “He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (V.8) but if she consistently refuses to walk according to his word and follows other gods, the ultimate consequence will be: “You shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.” (V.63)

In the book of Joshua we find this powerfully illustrated: When Joshua was about to conquer Jericho he went out into the desert to seek the face of God before this first and decisive battle. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him. Joshua asked what at first seemed to be a purely rhetorical question: “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” Of course God must have been with Israel! But the answer of God’s messenger must have been rather sobering for Joshua. “Neither, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come. […] Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” In other words: I am not necessarily with you. But if you want me to be on your side, take your shoes of, because this is Holy Ground. God in his sovereignty chose this piece of land between Jordan and the Mediterranean for his redemptive purposes. For that reason he expects the people living on it to be holy and obedient to his kingship.

If Israel wants to live on this land today, she needs to take her shoes off.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding

Former Executive Director
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

Dr. Jürgen Bühler

Executive Director
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition

The Christian Edition

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Putting the Pieces Together

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Our Battered Brethren

By David Parsons
January 2006

It has the ring of a spy novel “the Bethlehem dossier.”

The author, Samir Qumsieh, an Arab Orthodox parishioner from Beit Sahour, came forward in August with a list he had compiled of 93 incidents of abuses committed against Bethlehem’s Christians by local “Islamic mafia” and 140 cases of land theft against the dwindling Christian community over the past five years. Accompanied by a petition signed by scores of traditional Christians, the Bethlehem dossier was quietly delivered to leading bishops and clerics in Jerusalem, as well as to the Papal Nuncio, Ambassador Pietro Sambi, and the head of the Franciscan Custos in the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

Like Luther nailing his 95 points to the door of the Wittenberg cathedral, the dossier sent ripples through the corridors of Jerusalem’s historic churches. Here was a catalog of grievances compiled by grassroots parishioners documenting what the holy city’s pro-Palestinian bishops and patriarchs had been denying for decades.

Armed Muslim gangs have invaded our homes, extorted our businesses, torched our shops, raped our daughters, and stolen our lands, the dossier charged. Our appeals for protection and redress to Palestinian authorities go unanswered or even worse spark clan retaliation against us for filing complaints in the first place. Thousands of our family members have fled abroad. And the whole time, you shepherds remain silent!

Silent Shepherds

THE SHEPHERDS indeed have not been just silent, but actively deceptive concerning the Muslim oppression of local Christians, adamantly insisting that all is well between Palestine’s Islamic majority and its tiny Christian remnant.

In but one example, prominent Arab clerics totally dismissed substantiated reports early in the second intifada of Muslim militiamen shooting at Gilo from Christian homes in Beit Jalla in a deliberate effort to draw IDF return fire.

“The entire history of Palestine never witnessed any religious conflict between Christians and Muslims,” Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem Riah Abu ‘Assal told the Washington Times at the time.

“The Arab Christian community in the Palestinian territories is an integral part of the Palestinian people. It suffers with it, rejoices with it, and shares with it the same hopes and aspirations,” concurred the Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate, Father Raed Awad Abusahlia. “Therefore, the recent Israeli rumors about getting the town of Beit Jalla involved in the recent clashes is not a coincidence, but aim to ‘divide and rule’ among the one Palestinian people.”

“Refuse... the propaganda that wants to prove that there were any studied or willed persecution from our Muslim brothers and sisters of the Christians. We consider it as mere propaganda against Islam, a cold war against our Muslim brothers that only benefits the Zionists of Israel,” added Father Labib Kobtl, another representative of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah.

Sabbah himself assured Newsweek at Christmas 2002 that, “[i]n Arab countries there is no persecution of Christians.”

Even now, leading Palestinian clergymen affiliated with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in east Jerusalem are being hosted in Protestant churches across North America, spreading the ruse that the salvation of Christians in the Holy Land lies in divesting from Israel and dismantling the security fence. Follow the Sabeel ‘road show’ this fall and you will not hear one word about the “dossier” of appalling cruelties by the Islamic mafia in Bethlehem.

Blaming Israel

THE BETHLEHEM dossier directly challenges these tired blame-it-all-on-Israel refrains instead sending up a desperate, genuine cry from the pews to the church hierarchy in Jerusalem to end their long silence regarding Muslim persecution and finally speak out in defense of their embattled flocks.

The source of the dossier was also startling Samir Qumsieh happens to be no friend of Israel. Exiled for a number of years for his activism in Fatah, he returned to Bethlehem under Oslo to open a local TV station named Al Madeh (“Nativity” in Arabic). But when Muslims recently claimed a plot of his land that he had set aside for expanding the station, Qumsieh had enough.

According to an article in the Italian paper Corriere della Sera in September, he was counseled by the Vatican representative not to go public with his compilation of grievances. “You could be killed”, warned Sambi.

“We have to complain, we have been silent long enough,” responded Qumsieh.

Father Pizzaballa of the Custos was finally ready to speak out as well, telling the Italian daily:

“Almost every day, I repeat, every day, our congregation is being attacked by Muslim extremists in the territories. And if it’s not Hamas or Jihad members attacking us, we run against a wall of ignorance in the Palestinian Authority, who does very little, if anything at all, to punish the culprits. In the past it even happened that these [attacks] were perpetrated by Mahmoud Abbas policemen or militant members of Fatah, by those who are actually supposed to protect us. I am so exhausted to hear the same complaints again and again that I sometimes don’t even check some of them.”

State of Fear

THE HISTORIC explanation for the silence of Arab church leaders in the face of Muslim persecution is well known by now. It stems from their long, sad status as second-class citizens steeped in dhimmitude a survivalist mentality passed down through the generations that conditions them to never say anything bad about their Muslim neighbors since it could prove deadly.

No doubt, Palestinian Christians have a deeply engrained fear that the Islamic religious hostility now directed primarily against Jews might one day be more fully turned against them.

Scholars monitoring the plight of Palestinians Christians are increasingly employing the analogy of the battered spouse syndrome, in which the wife of an abusive husband becomes conditioned to defend and identify with their tormentor even as the abuse worsens.

It helps to have a more precise clinical diagnosis of the problem, but what is much more needed now is an effective and compassionate prognosis for lifting the Muslim siege and preserving these ancient, fragile Christian communities. What is also sorely needed is for the shepherds to stop standing in the way of relief for their beleaguered flocks.

David Parsons serves as ICEJ Media Director in Jerusalem and a Contributing Editor of 'The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition' in which this article was first published.

Palestinian Christians

Under siege and without protection, the Christian population under Palestinian rule has dwindled with each passing year. In October, 2007, after repeated threats, Rammi Ayyad was brutally murdered outside the only Christian Bookstore in Gaza. In 2008, a bomb was set off at one Christian school in Gaza, while at another, run by the Baptist Church, guards were assaulted and a bus hijacked.

Even though Hamas denies involvement in the attacks and claims that it is attempting to protect the small, ancient Christian community in Gaza, attacks on the 3,000 Christians residing there have increased since the Muslim terror militia came seized power.

Basing his findings on ten years of research, an Israeli expert on international human rights law has warned that the shrinking Palestinian Christian community could disappear within 15 years due to the threat of Muslim extremism. "The systematic persecution of Christian Arabs living in Palestinian areas is being met with nearly total silence by the international community, human rights activists, the media and NGOs," said Justus Reid Weiner, a lawyer and scholar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Given current trends of Muslims persecution, he fears Christian communities within Palestinian-run territories are likely to completely disappear in 15 years.

"Christian leaders are being forced to abandon their followers to the forces of radical Islam" Weiner lamented in a public lecture on the subject. Unless governments or other such organizations intervene, soon the Christian communities will consist solely of top clergy officials, with a few Western Christians. Some 50 years ago, the Palestinian Christian population stood at an estimated 15%, but today it has dropped to 1.5%. Bethlehem once had a strong Christian majority, but that figure today stands at only 20% Christian. In the Gaza Strip, there are only around 3,000 Christians amongst some 1.4 million Muslims. “In a society where Arab Christians have no voice and no protection it is no surprise that they are leaving," said Weiner.

These brothers of ours in Christ need our prayers and support as never before.

Replacement Theology


Recently, I became more keenly aware of the spiritual conflict that rages over Israel. This conflict settles on the battleground of Replacement theology. While we reject this theological concept, it is worth noting that it is a 'new' that has strengthened itself over many centuries within churches of all traditions. It is therefore not easily removed and yet we are called to do so with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

To some degree, Replacement theology is so deceptive because it rests on half-truths. For instance, the Church is the “Israel of God” but not in a replacement sense (Galatians 6:14-16).

In essence, Replacement theology removes from Israel a national destiny in the land of Canaan because of her rejection of Jesus’ Messianic credentials. All the biblical statements of Israel enjoying future blessings in the land of Canaan are said to be descriptions of the spiritual blessings that now accrue to the Church. The expectation of a physical kingdom has been spiritualized and taken from Israel and given to the Gentiles (Matthew 21:43), even though Jesus never denied that the physical kingdom would be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6-7).

That this way of expounding Scripture completely violates the principles of biblical exposition is of little importance to them. We should interpret Scripture by the nature of the text. If it is literal, then we should interpret it literally, but if it is spiritual or figurative, then we should respond accordingly. For instance, Jesus said, “I am the door!” Does this mean He actually is a door? Of course not! The context is clearly figurative and needs to be interpreted as such.

We are therefore not committed to any singular form of biblical exposition - literal or figurative - but rather to the context. This will determine our style of exposition and therefore we uphold the integrity of Scripture and its authority.

The Essentials of Replacement Theology

Replacement theology rests chiefly on the idea that the whole or part of the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished, for it is this Covenant that promises to Israel eternal ownership of the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:7-8).

Once this 'promise' has been removed, the present-day restoration of Israel means nothing and her only hope is in the Church. Now it must be made clear that we believe that only in Christ Jesus can there be salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike (Romans 1:16-17). However, we do not believe that the promise of God in the Abrahamic Covenant bequeathing the land of Canaan to Israel has been removed, and therefore Israel’s modern restoration to the land of Canaan is indeed fulfillment of that promise and constitutes a milestone on her ‘way home’ to her Messiah (Ezekiel 36:24-28).

Two Points of View

The Replacement camp is divided into two opinions concerning the Abrahamic Covenant:

1. The Abolitionists

This camp sees the Covenant with Abraham as being entirely abolished. However they have serious difficulties because Paul writing to the Galatians states that Jesus died in order to bring to our lives the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant and if we belong to Jesus, we are Abraham’s children according to the promise (Galatians 3:13-14, 29).

If the Covenant has been abolished, then what Paul says is wrong! Moreover the writer of the Book of Hebrews states that we can trust God to be faithful to the New Covenant because He has always been faithful to the Abrahamic Covenant (Hebrews 6:13-20). This constitutes a serious problem for the Abolitionists because, if the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished, then God is a liar and indeed is not faithful, though the writer of Hebrews affirms that He is!

Many Abolitionists have perceived this problem and have consequently moved to the...

2. Reconstructionist Camp

This theory states that the Abrahamic Covenant has indeed not been abolished but it has been reconstructed. That is, the part that promises land to Israel now means spiritual promises and not literal ones. The problem with this theory is:

(a) It is a total presupposition and the Scriptures nowhere affirm it. That all nations would be blessed in Christ was actually the intention of the Abrahamic Covenant from the very beginning, but this does not remove from the Jewish people a national destiny in the Holy Land.

Reconstructionists lay emphasis on Paul’s teaching in the Book of Galatians concerning God’s promise in Abraham being made not to his “seed”, plural, that is the people of Israel, but to his “seed” singular, meaning Jesus (Galatians 3:15-18). Therefore they conclude that since the “seed” Christ has come, the promise to the “seed” of Abraham as in plural - meaning the people - has been removed! They have forfeited the land!

The truth is that Paul also uses the term “Abraham’s seed” in the plural in the New Testament (Romans 9:6-7). In other words both interpretations of the term “seed” are true! Abraham’s seed is singular and plural. The blessing God promised in Abraham is only in Christ Jesus because He died for the whole world, but the mediation or means by which this blessed “seed” comes into the world is through the “seed” plural - the people of Israel. The one truth does not contradict the other. Both truths are in fact interdependent (Romans 9:1-5), hence the extensive genealogy of Jesus given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38).

The Bible nowhere states that the promises of God in Abraham concerning Israel’s everlasting possession of the Land of Canaan are removed. In fact, everywhere it affirms the opposite! That is, that a day is coming when Israel will be restored to the land and to her Messiah (Ezekiel 36:24-32). This passage from Ezekiel teaches the very opposite of Replacement theology, in that Israel’s rebellion and sin has not led to land forfeiture but to judgment and correction, yet in the end God will, for His Name’s sake, restore Israel to her ancient land and to Himself! He does this in spite of her history of rebellion and sin. The truth is that Replacement theology reflects the heart of man and not that of God!

(b) The Scriptures refute it. Jesus came to confirm the promises to the Fathers, not to reconstruct them (Romans 15:7-9). Confirm means CONFIRM! He takes away nothing but reinforces every promise that God made to the fathers (Acts 3:22-26). Peter affirms that there must be a time of “restoration of all things” before Messiah returns. This “restoration of all things” is spoken about by all the prophets - meaning a final regathering to the Land of Canaan and repentance leading to salvation in Jesus (Amos 9:11-15; Jeremiah 36:26-28).


Israel has always been God’s vehicle of world redemption (Romans 9:1-5). In a way, she is God’s microphone, the means by which He speaks to a lost world. Moreover, she has birthed all God’s covenants into the world and has now come back to her ancient homeland, by the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, to birth the final great covenant of history, the Davidic Covenant. Herein lies the ultimate purpose of her modern-day restoration. Jesus will return to Zion as the root and offspring of David (Revelation 22:1-6; Psalm 2:1-12; Psalm 72:5-11).

No wonder the conflict over Zion is so great. Our ministry, partnered with you, is removing the stumbling blocks from Zion and thereby preparing her for the arrival of her great and most blessed King (Isaiah 62:10).

Replacement theology is thus an instrument of the powers of darkness to frustrate the purpose of God, by disconnecting the Church from this final great redemptive initiative in history. We reject it and stand fully on the promises of God concerning Israel and the Church.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the former Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

The Question of Justice

The passing of each Christmas season gives the small but highly symbolic Palestinian Christian community a brief moment in the sun to highlight the difficult yoke of life in modern Bethlehem. Some use it to decry the lawless acts of radical Islamic neighbours, others the restrictive shadow of the Israeli security wall.

At a recent holiday reception for the Christian communities of the Holy Land hosted by Israel's Minister of Tourism, Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem Munib Younan used his moment at the podium to plead this Christmas for "peace and justice, for without justice there cannot be peace."

For decades now, such appeals for "justice" have been a familiar refrain from Palestinian voices Muslim and Christian. For their part, Palestinian Christian clerics often construct their calls for "justice" in biblical terms, with a particular attachment to the words of the Hebrew prophet Micah.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

This very passage headlined a statement released this past summer by Younan and three other Arab bishops of Jerusalem that sharply denounced evangelical Christian supporters of Israel. That declaration, in turn, was taken verbatim from the proclamation of an April 2004 conference of the Sabeel Center for Palestinian Liberation Theology, convened specifically to "challenge" the "heretical teaching" of Christian Zionism.

The founder and director of Sabeel, an Arab Anglican priest named Rev. Naim Ateek, has even written a book on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict entitled Justice, and Only Justice.

But what exactly do they mean by "justice"?

For the bulk of the Palestinian people, 98% of whom happen to be Muslim, it means Israel taking responsibility for and completely reversing the Arab al-Nakba ("Disaster") suffered in the 1948 War of Independence. From that conflict emerged a Jewish state on 'sacred' Palestinian land, as well as a festering Palestinian refugee problem that now numbers in the millions. Though it was a war launched by the Arabs, they now want Israel to 'unscramble their eggs.'

In one camp, the 'radical' Hamas is unwilling to compromise on the refugee issue, nor on the armed struggle to recover all the waqf of Palestine, which they would Islamicize.

The more 'moderate' Fatah could accept a reversal in stages a Palestinian mini-state for now but also insisting on a significant return of refugees to the Jewish state. In time, they envision the two states merging into one Arab state between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea due to their higher birth rate.

Sometimes they can be coy about these goals. Speaking at a recent international conference on Palestinian refugees, prominent Palestinian spokesman Nabil Shaath said in a conciliatory manner, "Any settlement has to have relative justice and not absolute justice."

But what does the tiny Palestinian Christian minority mean by "justice"?

To some, it may be defined as narrowly as lifting the IDF closures and checkpoints to allow freedom of movement, or recovering their own homes lost in the fighting of 1948, such as the seven Christian villages evacuated by Jewish forces along the frontier with Lebanon. Several Jewish communities have since been built in this border area, no doubt presenting Israel with a difficult moral dilemma.

Most, however, have in mind a one-state solution, whereby the land between "the River and the Sea" becomes one bi-national, democratic state in which everyone Jew or Arab gets one vote. In short, "one state for two peoples and three religions."

Many Palestinian Christians have trouble accepting a sovereign Jewish state for theological reasons, but they also do not want to live in an authoritarian or strictly Islamic state. Thus their preferred option is one democratic nation with a slight Arab majority but enough Jews to ensure the protection of minority rights.

As a means to that end, Palestinian Christian leaders and their allies abroad have led the pursuit of the Durban strategy of drawing apartheid comparisons to de-legitimize Israel and its policies. This has spawned the twin campaigns of divestment from Israel and dismantlement of the "apartheid wall." Former US president Jimmy Carter has earnestly joined this effort in his new book Israel: Peace not Apartheid, while South Africa's celebrated Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu hopes to do his part with an upcoming visit to Gaza under the auspices of the new UN Human Rights Committee.

A Righteous Judge

Still, at the heart of the Palestinian Christian cry for "justice" is a struggle over their very concept of God from a New Testament perspective. Some liken the Palestinian situation today to the ancient Canaanite people in the land when it was conquered under Joshua, and do not consider that to be the handiwork of the same God of mercy revealed in Jesus Christ. Is God just, they ask, to bring the Jewish people back into the land in our day in a manner that has resulted in such loss and dispossession for fellow humans equally loved in His sight?

In approaching this question on biblical terms, it is first worth noting a distinction between moral uprightness as an individual duty versus its obligation on a collective or national scale. The former addresses one's conduct as it relates to eternal salvation or damnation, while the latter invokes the sovereignty and purposes of God over the nations in the course of human history.

Micah 6:8, for instance, speaks primarily of the individual charge placed upon every man to act justly with their fellow human, and the Bible has much to say in this regard more than we have room for here. Suffice to say that, ultimately, there is no person that has been just enough in God's sight to stand before Him (Psalm 130:3-4; Romans 3:10); but we were given Christ not only as the means to our justification by faith (Romans 4:5), but also as our example of someone who suffered unjustly in silence, "entrust[ing] himself to Him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:21-23)

Now as for "justice" on the national level, the Bible clearly teaches, first, that God is sovereign over the nations and indeed deals with them as He wills based on questions of righteous and justice as He defines them not in human terms (Jeremiah 18:5-10; Isaiah 40:12-24).

Secondly, God has given Israel as a "light to the nations" to show us what it means to walk uprightly before Him and know His blessing or in disobedience and know His loving correction. The blessing of obedience was the right to live in the land bequeathed to Abraham's descendants as an "everlasting possession" (Genesis 17:8), while the curse of disobedience was exile among the nations (see Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).

How poetically the prophet Isaiah describes Israel as a "vineyard" carefully planted by God that He then had to uproot, because "He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help." Isaiah 5:1-7

Thus did a righteous God deal severely with His own people Israel down through the centuries. In fact, He actually made them pay “double” for all their sins (Isaiah 40:1-3; Jeremiah 16:18). This means that if anyone has a legitimate cry for "justice," it is the Jews, who have suffered far more than any other peoples in history.

Yet the Apostle Paul, with regard to these very sufferings inflicted by God upon His elect, asks in Romans 3:1-8 essentially the same tough questions being posed by pro-Palestinian Christians today, namely:

“But if our [Israel’s] unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise how will God judge the world?”

In other words, if God ever did anything to the Israelites that they did not deserve, then He has no right to judge the rest of the world.

This same God also promised a time of favor upon Israel (Psalm 102:13), in which "He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock." Jeremiah 31:10

God scattered them as a corrective measure, but also with a redemptive purpose, in that with their dispersion the Gospel went out to all the world (Romans 11:11-12, 15). It is His prerogative to now gather them within that same redemptive purpose.

Though this modern-day ingathering may make some Christians uncomfortable from a humanistic perspective, it is actually the ultimate justice of God that He should recover this people who have suffered for the sake of the nations and redeem them back in the land.

This does not mean, however, that everything Israel does today is right or that her moral shortcomings can be overlooked. She does need to act justly but in His sight and not necessarily at the bar of nations that have always treated her unfairly, if not cruelly.

In the end, we are assured that this process will bring God's correction and justice to Israel and to the nations. For as Jeremiah says of this present Ingathering: "Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished." (Jeremiah 30:10-11)

Indeed, "Zion shall be redeemed with justice and her penitents with righteousness." (Isaiah 1:27)

David Parsons

Media Director
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

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