Christian leaders in the Middle East are calling on believers to “stand in the gap” as a voice for peace, justice, and reconciliation as the Holy Land is torn apart by conflict.
Speaking on SAT-7’s live current affairs program, You Are Not Alone, on Friday, Dr Salim Munayer, Executive Director and Founder of Musalaha Ministry of Reconciliation in Jerusalem, called on Christians to seek peace. “Peace needs to be active, not just praying at home, but doing something as Christians in the Middle East socially and politically to be salt and light… Leaders of the churches have a role they must play.”
He was joined on the program by the Rev. Dr Jack Sara of Bethlehem Bible College, who said that his organization was standing by, ready to provide relief to the people of Gaza as soon as the doors for humanitarian aid are opened. Dr Sara said that as well as providing practical help, Christians have an important message to bring at this time of crisis in the Holy Land:
“We try to give hope to the people. The Bible says that God is with us in our tribulations. Jesus is light to the world, and those who follow him will not walk in the dark but have light. The devil wants to destroy the world, but Jesus came to give us life. So we must have faith in him that when all doors close, the door of heaven remains open. We must lift our eyes to him because He gives us peace, faith, and strength. I pray that the Lord would open the heavens and send his blessings over our country.”
THE CHURCH IN ACTION
Over the last few days, there have been a number of powerful reports about how the Church in the Holy Land is being salt and light in the midst of the heartbreaking conflict.
Gaza’s oldest church, the Church of Saint Porphyrius, has been opening its doors to provide shelter for both Muslims and Christians. “Our humanity calls us to offer peace and warmth to everyone in need,” said Father Elias, a priest at the church. Meanwhile, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, offered to swap himself for children being held hostage in Gaza. “I am ready for an exchange, anything, if this can lead to freedom, to bring the children home,” he told journalists in Italy, according to Reuters.
Today, Tuesday (October 17), a Day of Prayer and Fasting, called by the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, is being observed around the world. In a statement, they called upon “all parties to de-escalate this war in order to save innocent lives while still serving the cause of justice,” adding, “There is yet time to stop the hatred.”
As a tiny minority (around 1.6%) in the Holy Land, the Church is extremely vulnerable, and experts are warning that the latest conflict could threaten its future existence in the territory.
VOICES ACROSS THE MIDDLE EAST
Christian leaders across the Middle East are adding their voices to the calls for peace, justice, and reconciliation in the Holy Land.
Freddy Al-Bayadi, a Christian member of the Egyptian parliament, appeared on SAT-7’s A Different Angle program last week. He said, “Peace is tied to justice. If we are calling for peace then we must call for justice as well. We see biases in some media agencies and governments, where they lean to one side or another regardless of what that side is doing, so they defend that side from any aggression while remaining silent about aggressions being suffered by the other side… Our role as Christians is to clarify that truth and peace come together.”
In a discussion on A Different Angle, the presenters and guests highlighted the international rules of engagement in war, which require that civilians should not be targeted and that channels for humanitarian aid are open during armed conflict.
Further calls for peace and justice came this week from Metropolitan Elias Audi, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut, who said, “The Church always stands against violence and against war, but it rejects injustice. Therefore, we hope that this disaster will shake the conscience of the leaders of the world, so they realize the necessity of stopping the fighting and finding a just solution to this issue, because there is no peace where there is injustice, and only the innocents pay the price.”
SAT-7 is using its platform to amplify the voice of the Church in these critical days. George Makeen, SAT-7’s Ministry Content Advisor, said: “The vicious cycle of violence we are witnessing in the Middle East will never end unless we have the miracle of reconciliation. God’s own people, the Church, are committed to stand in the gap with stretched arms as the crucified Messiah did to proclaim this message over hatred and revenge.”
Would you please pause and pray for the following right now?
- Give thanks that the Church in the Holy Land is being salt and light in this devastating conflict, and pray for wisdom, compassion, and courage for all those in a position to make an impact
- Pray for the continued protection over the Churches in the Holy Land
- Continue to pray for peace, justice, and reconciliation in the Holy Land
- Pray for comfort for the grieving, healing for the injured, and aid for those in need