'A call to pray for us'
Baptists are the largest single group of Evangelical Christians in Israel today and offer a unique perspective: as Arab-Israelis they are a minority within a majority Jewish state; as Christians, a minority within the majority Muslim Arab-Israeli population; and as Evangelicals, a minority within the majority traditional churches. They stand in solidarity with all who are suffering.
Here Bader Mansour shares an update of the current situation in the region, alongside a series of prayer points
Many of you have sent letters and asked about us during this difficult time. Thank you for your love. Hereby, I am sending an update about the situation and how it is affecting our churches.
This letter is not an attempt to explain all issues or take sides, but rather an update and a call to pray for us.
We are in the middle of yet another round of violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which comes this time after one year of lockdown because of COVID-19. It also came during a very unstable political situation in Israel (4 elections in 2 years) and the cancellation of elections in the Palestinian authority. Currently, the Israeli Air force is bombing the Gaza strip and the Gaza strip controlled by the militant group Hamas is firing rockets into Israel and there is lots of destruction and many lives have been lost. There is also a lot of unrest in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
What is happening inside Israel is very alarming. Arabs and Jews in Israel are projecting a lot of anger, through rioting and looting which have been going on for a week, and some of the worse sides of hatred have spread from both sides. Many innocent people have been attacked and beaten, and few people were killed. Businesses and homes were burnt down or vandalised and extremists are trying to terrorise innocent people who do not feel safe even inside their own homes. The situation continues to be dangerous.
In addition to the loss of lives and in property, we are mostly concerned about the spread of hatred and the destroying of co-existence that was built with lots of hard work. After all, this will stop, it will take years to build what was destroyed.
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Psalm 11:3
We weep with those who are weeping and empathize with all who are suffering. We have called our churches for three-day fasting and prayer for our country. We continue to pray as we call you to stand with us in prayer.
We have the following specific prayer requests:
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, including all its inhabitants and all surrounding areas – for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Pray for leaders and all those in authority that they may peruse peace so we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
Pray for the healing of relationships between Jews and Arabs, especially for our young people who are exposed to this kind of hatred for the first time.
Pray for protection for our churches, communities, and for our families. Some churches had to cancel their services or hold them online because of fear. Pray especially for Haifa, Acre, Lod, Ramle, Jaffa, Cana of Galilee, Turaan.
Pray for us to remember to turn our eyes to God, our refuge and strength, and to Jesus, the prince of peace.
Pray for us to live our faith by loving our neighbours as ourselves and have faith to continue being a prophetic voice amid the chaos and light amid the darkness.
Bader Mansour is the Development Officer, Association of Baptist Churches in Israel. Baptists are the largest single group of Evangelical Christians in Israel today with 18 churches and a community of 3,000 people, serving mainly among the Arab population in Israel. It belongs to the European Baptist Federation, to whom this letter was originally written. Bader's letter is republished with his permission.
For more on the current situation:
Pray for Palestinians and Israelis - prayer and action points from Christian Aid
As we look to respond to this call to prayer, you might find these resources helpful. They have been compiled by our friends at Christian Aid, and emphasise a “just peace”, in recognition that there can be no durable political settlement and no lasting peace in the region whilst poverty and injustice remain
Stand with Palestinians and Israelis - call for a ceasefire today - Christian Aid
In addition to praying, Christian Aid is also inviting us to write to the Prime Minister to urge him to:
1. Actively pursue an immediate and unconditional ceasefire
2. Press for international law to be upheld by both sides
3. Support the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a forum in which all those who commit crimes against humanity or war crimes can be held to account.
Israel-Palestine: Avoiding Antisemitic and Islamophobic Hate Speech - Solutions Not Sides
Clearly the ongoing conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities is incredibly complex and deeply sensitive for many. This should not prevent us from discussing it in our churches, praying for just peace and standing in solidarity with all any who are suffering or oppressed. You may find these guidelines helpful to ensure any such conversations avoid falling foul of Antisemitic and Islamophobic language and sentiment.