Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Arab-Israeli Christian Minister calls for ‘Spiritual’ Arab Spring in the Mid-East
By Michael Ireland
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (ANS) -- A young Arab-Israeli Christian pastor, who has been beaten and stoned for his faith, is calling on American Christians to pray for a ‘Spiritual’ Arab Spring throughout the Middle East.
“I am glad, not for what I have done, but for what Christ has done for me on Calvary’s Cross . I am glad that Christ showed mercy to me and gave His life that I might be saved. Growing up on the Mission field for twenty years has not only taught me the life of a missionary, but also the struggles and battles of every believer,” Khoury says on his website, www.holylandmissions.org
Khoury adds: “God has burdened my heart in a great way. He has shown me that Arabs can come to Salvation; I have witnessed that Jews are coming to the MESSIAH, and that many in Israel from all backgrounds are losing hope in life. Seeing people bleed every day, and seeing a person one day and gone the next because of violence and terrorism has made me appreciate life.”
Holy Land Missions exists to preach the Gospel to the hurting nation of Israel and the Palestinian peoples, bringing worldwide awareness of the persecution of born again Christians living in the Holy Land today, “Building Hope in lives that lost it, Planting Love in hearts that forgot it, to build a better tomorrow."
The organization’s current mission is building a multi-purpose Worship Center in Jerusalem.
Khoury pastors Calvary Jerusalem Church, as well as a church in Bethlehem, and four other sites in Israel.
Pastor Khoury attended Bible College in Springfield, MO, and received his Bachelor of Science in Pastoral Ministry and Bible, along with his official Ordination Certificate. He has served in ministry in both the States and Israel over the past 7 years. As an affiliate with the BBFI, and a member of the National Christian Foundation, he is the youngest locally- ordained Arab pastor in Israel and surrounding Arab countries.
Khoury has been published in several books and interviewed by CBN and ICEJ. He currently writes religious articles for Al-Quds, the largest Arabic newspaper in the Holy Land. His book is called, “In the Backyard of Jesus,” published by Living Sacrifice Book Company, in Bartlesville, OK.
Holy Land Missions has been reaching out to the lost in Israel for the past 30 years. Today, six locations around the country are actively preaching the Gospel to a hurting nation, including Calvary Church in Jerusalem and First Baptist in Bethlehem. The ministry says that throughout the entire country there are approximately 15,000 born again Arab-Israeli Christians who are daily persecuted by the two dominating religions in the area.
On his website, Khoury explains: “Persecution has always faced this ministry. Church members have been attacked, discriminated against, and many have lost their income -- all for the sake of carrying The Cross.
Nevertheless, Holy Land Missions has reached out to thousands over the years through their outreach programs such as: T.V. ministry, Summer Children’s Programs, Printing and Distribution of Christian Materials, Radio Ministry, Youth Centers, Church Services, Food Pantry, and Community Events.
“Holy Land Missions sends out a call for the body of believers around the World to stand behind the persecuted believers in this country,” the website says.
ASSIST News interviewed Khoury and asked how the Lord prepared him for his current ministry.
“I saw the hand of God preparing me for ministry in a very unique way. I saw God change people’s lives through the message of my father’s preaching and teaching. I saw people walk into my father’s office, my father’s home sad and broken and just walk out with a big old smile on their face, and I looked at my dad and said ‘I want to do that. I want to make a difference. I want to put a smile on those faces.’ And of course that came at a price. That wasn’t easy. My father’s outspokenness about the being a bold believer for Jesus came with a price, a big price, and that price has come through discrimination, it came through physical attacks, it came through persecution through most of our lives growing up in the Holy Land.”
In what ways does he see God at work in Bethlehem and Jerusalem?
“We are seeing an openness on the minds and the hearts of people in the Holy Land that we’ve never seen before. Openness to the gospel, openness to Jesus, openness to even come to some of the things that we’re doing that before they would have never been interested in coming to or doing.
Khoury has himself been attacked and stoned for his faith, and told ASSIST News about two recent cases where his church has been attacked by those who are against his ministry.
"Just two stories come to mind, and they both go hand-in- hand because they both go on at the same time. In 2010, a couple in our church went to register their children to the Palestinian Authority to register their children in the computer system to get birth certificates and passports. It’s different than in the US -- you get a birth certificate in the hospital. In our country, you get a birth certificate from the hospital and from the government You got to have both registered in the system. Without that you can’t get travel documents, you can’t get passports in the future, you can’t even vote if you’re not in the system,” Khoury said.
"So a couple went to register their two twins and they were rejected and they were told the cause ‘you were traitors’ by this person who said he was speaking on his own behalf, but he was a government official. So he’s technically speaking for the whole government. He said ‘you’re traitors, you know get out, go back to your original faith, go back to your original traditional church.’ And with that they walked out of there and couldn’t register their children. We started contacting government officials to ask them what’s going on, what’s the reason behind this? We started to realize there’s a big lobbying against my father because we’re evangelical pastors, pastors that believe in preaching, teaching, evangelism and sharing the message of Christ with whomever. So that is a message that they don’t want us to carry. We realize there’s lobbying against us. And we went all the way up to the Prime Minister of the Palestinian territory authority which is Salam Fayyad, and he says ‘oh, don’t worry when we’ll help you.’ Long story short, of course nothing came out of it for more than two years now. We can’t marry, we can’t get birth certificates, we can’t get death certificates, we can’t baptize. We do it, but nothing in the government’s eyes is worth anything. So what the Palestinian government did was delegitimize us, meaning that they crippled our credibility in the community.”
How did they do that?
“By withdrawing or freezing our calling us an illegitimate church. Nothing we do in the government’s eyes means anything. In the Arab culture, faith and nationality are intertwined together. You know we’re different than the US, separation of church and state. There your identity is who you are -- if you’re a Christian by default you’re registered with the government.
"So if you belong to a church that is not registered by the government then you’re nothing. Your marriage is nothing. It means your baptism is nothing. So what they did by doing this, they crippled our existence and our credibility by telling people this church is not recognized so therefore by spending your time with them you’re wasting your time. They delegitimized us,” said Khoury.
“At the same time of course we found out that this is being done by hidden sources behind the scenes that don’t want to see our ministry expand and grow. We are the fastest growing or largest Arab ministry in the Palestinian territories and in Jerusalem. In the same time recently, since 1998 till today we’ve been kicked out of three church buildings. Now I’m talking about East Jerusalem. We would go in and rent a church in East Jerusalem, the hidden extremists would threaten the landlord if they don’t kick us out they’re going to burn the building down. So that leaves the landlord giving us a week or two to get out and we’d have to leave. One part we were actually kicked out. That was so scary. So we’re in our third location right now where the landlord was threatened several times that everything will be burned down and his life is in danger if they don’t kick us out.”
Khoury said this is being done by extremists in the community.
Khoury mentioned they have found someone willing to sell them land on which to build a new church building.
"We’re praying for $3.5 million dollars to build a church in Jerusalem. We’re not buying a fancy big building -- we’re just getting a plain stone Jerusalem building; it’s just that it’s one of the most expensive (I think it’s number one or two) most expensive real estate in the world, second or third I believe. So we’re going to be about a quarter of a mile outside the old city of Jerusalem, so within Jerusalem radius. And we believe in the church. It’s important because we are seeing lives changed. It’s important because we’re seeing testimonies -- people’s hearts turned around every single day because of that we believe -- our existence in Jerusalem is appointed by God. We are going before the Lord every day and asking the church in the West to partner with us and to help us with this church in Jerusalem. “
Khoury said those interested in helping finance the new church can go online to the ministry website at www.Holylandmissions.org , “To pray and to even sow a gift into this land in Jerusalem. For the Palestinian Authority issue, we have a website that people can go in and put their zip code --there’s a letter there, it’s already typed, they don’t have to do anything just put their name and zip code and this letter will be sent to their Congressman. The website is: www.bethlehemfreedom.com , or www.bethlehemfreedom.org , both work, and they put in the zip code and the state pops up.”
Khoury continued: “This letter goes to congress, their congressman saying we are telling you we’re not going to stand by and see the Palestinian government delegitimize an evangelical church because they have different views, different beliefs. We have a letter, about 28 congressmen who have signed on to this legislation, to let the PA know that we know about this issue and this situation, and we want a result.” Khoury said the letter was a bi-partisan effort from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans.
What is the message on his heart that he would like to share with American Christians?
“My message to American Christians is stand up, just speak to be heard. A lot of times evil wins because good is not spoken. I love the statement, I talk about the statement in my book, a lot of times evil wins because good is not spoken. If only a few good people will stand up and say something, others will follow. I want to challenge Christians to be a good voice in the world,” Khoury said.
"You know the Christians in America they are so passionate. I’ve traveled throughout America, through many denominations from traditional to Charismatic, American Christians are so passionate, but at the same time I think they’re so sheltered. They there’s contentment, too much contentment. Complacency, that’s more the word. So my message or my challenge to the Christians in America is, there’s nothing wrong to be good-hearted people, but you have to step up to what’s around you. Around you is requiring you to be a bolder believer. Around you --meaning the outside world, the world outside the church walls -- is right now forcing you to be a bolder believer. If you’re not a bolder believer, then your voice will never be heard.
"In the Gospel of John, Jesus turns to the Disciples and says ‘you know, why are you so surprised that there’s so much persecution? Why are you so surprised that they’re persecuting you?’ He sort of speaks to them basically he’s telling them it’s abnormal not to suffer. Jesus tells his disciples they will persecute you because they persecuted me for you. He’s telling his disciples not being persecuted it’s abnormal; being persecuted is normal because the world will reject you just like they rejected Me.”
Khoury was asked what it will take for the church in the West to wake up to what is going on around them, and in the world at large?
“I think it’s going to take more [suffering] unfortunately, I mean sometimes things have to get impossibly difficult for them to get better, and because of the complacency these good-hearted Christians in America – loving, giving, hearts -- I think sometimes tragedy has to happen. It could be natural disaster, it could be something that God allows to happen to wake up the church in America. I believe it’s persecution, I believe it’s more anti-American sentiment, I believe it’s discrimination against American people around the world. “
He added: “I think a combination of all of these are gonna make some Christians become closed off, I think it’s going to allow more Christians to be bold for their faith. We’ve seen, I’ve seen in my experience, persecution strengthen a body, strengthens a city rather than weakens it. “
“My assessment is we’re definitely gonna see the growth of Islam in the Middle East. We’re seeing it in Egypt and I think it’s going to continue to grow more and more. Islam is the fastest growing religion, and I believe it’s going to continue to grow because they are being aggressive -- they have that mentality ‘they must, not may I, or can I -- it’s you must.’ They have the ‘you must’ mentality. My heart is concerned for the Middle East, it really is, because the enemy is a masked enemy, nobody knows what’s the agenda of the Muslim brotherhood. Nobody knows the agenda of the Arab Spring, nobody knows. We see it in Egypt in a lot of ways it’s bad. In some ways it’s about stability, but in a lot of ways it’s a bad thing. We see it in Syria right now, we see it in Libya. So my assessment is that we need to pray for the Middle East. We need to pray for the Arab and Middle Eastern world that it could be a ‘Spiritual Spring’ that’s what we need.”
Does he see a ‘spiritual Arab Spring’ coming?
“Yes. I’m always telling Christians in the West to pray for a stronger ‘spiritual spring’ to arise. That’s my message. Pray that a stronger spiritual spring would arise.”
Khoury concluded by saying that he wants to challenge Christians to visit the Holy Land.
“It is a spiritual journey that makes you understand much more how real Jesus is. I want to challenge the Christians in the west to visit our websites, it’s important. Visit our websites to sign up for our newsletter to let us know that we are not forgotten.”
**ANS would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
** You may republish this story with proper attribution.
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