The Plight of Palestinian Christians

The following link is lengthy (pardon the pun) but well worth watching. It is an excellent update on the above topic.

https://www.vomcanada.com/index.php?option=com_youtubegallery&view=youtubegallery&listid=26&themeid=4&videoid=145294782&tmpl=component&TB_iframe=true&height=550&width=630

Below, I have used the text from the conclusion of a slightly dated but nevertheless still very relevant book by Justus Reid Weiner, ‘Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society’ (full reference listed at the end of this article).  Throughout this article, I have  included latest updates of some of the events and issues raised in Weiner’s summary.

“The plight of the Palestinian Christian Community cannot remain the sacrificial pawn in the larger game of the Middle East peace process.”

A Backward Glance

In April 2002, the Church of the Nativity was invaded by more than 100 Palestinian Muslim gunmen who shot their way inside, while attempting to evade capture by Israeli soldiers who had entered Bethlehem (West Bank – my comment) to quell on-going terrorism and, in particular, suicide bombings. As confirmed by Abdullah Abu-Hadid, a senior commander in the Tanzim militia, “the idea was to enter the Church in order to create international pressure on Israel” (Raab 2003). Reporting on the event, a Jerusalem-based cleric told the Jerusalem Post that, “propaganda is all that is being heard, in part because of the many cover-ups by the Christians who don’t dare speak up. They are cowards” (Gelfond 2002:260). The cleric explained that fear of Muslim terrorists silences both the churches and the communities. A Bethlehem priest quoted in the same article confirmed the assessment of the Jerusalem cleric, noting with anger, “I would have preferred silence rather than saying that everything is okay. We are worse than cowards, we are lying.” (Gefond 2002:260)

Even if peace negotiations are resumed and successfully navigate the numerous obstacles ahead, the fate of the average Palestinian will depend on the strength and orientation of his state’s institutions. The PA (Palestinian Authority) interim governing authority has proven itself incapable of guaranteeing the protection of the basic rights of Palestinian Christians, the most significant minority under its jurisdiction. One independent report stated that “the risk is that if present structures and practices go unreformed, they will shape and even predetermine future ones in negative ways.” The importance of monitoring the PA’s record, even during the ongoing violent intifada, cannot be overstated.

Some More Recent Developments

The recalcitrance of the PA to enforce international human rights standards, along with its refusal to respect the requirements of the Oslo interim agreements has made it an accomplice and even perpetrator of gross human rights abuses. Though the international community is tempted to donate further sums to the PA following the death of Yasser Arafat (in 2005 – my comment), they appear to be under the as yet unproven assumption that the ascendency of Mahmoud Abbas will rejuvenate the peace process and reinstate respect for human rights and religious freedom under the Palestinian Authority (my insert: elected interim prime minister in 2012 by Hamas and Fatah). This attempt at showing a united front has just been strengthened, as reported in an article by Aljazeera, dated 18.1.2017: “The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has agreed to form a unity government with rival organisation Hamas, Al Jazeera has learned. The agreement was reached late on Tuesday after a three-day negotiation in the Russian capital, Moscow [‘due to America’s seeming pro-Israel new Trump administration’ – as mentioned in same article, my comment]. The two organisations will form a new National Council, which will include Palestinians in exile and hold elections. “Today the conditions for [such an initiative] are better than ever,” Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah official, said. The deal also includes the Islamic Jihad group, which had not been involved in negotiations for a long time.”).

In the opinion of this author, the U.S., Israel, and other members of the international community should make human rights a major issue in any future peace negotiations. By using financial incentives during this pre-state stage, the U.S., Israel and international donor communities can prevent the egregious violations of human rights partially described in this monography from accompanying the PA into the emerging Palestinian state. The leverage of the donors is significant, with over 70 percent of the PA’s budget derived from foreign sources. (Sabella 2004).

(My insert: “…in budget years 2015 and 2016, …the US Agency for International Development …sent the Palestinians $355 million…” source: http://www.businessinsider.com, dated January 2017.

Quoting from Wikipedia: “The entities that provide aid to the Palestinians are categorized into seven groups: the Arab nations, the European Union, the United States, Japan, international institutions (including agencies of the UN system), European countries, and other nations (possibly Russia? – my comment).”

[My conclusion from research into this topic: NGO’s, involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, who have greatly increased in numbers, are said to act to protect human rights in this region of conflict, as well as exerting considerable influence over such huge organisations as the UN and the EU, have been shown to have overt or more often covert political bias against one or the other party involved; more often against Israel. Nevertheless, finding unbiased facts is extremely difficult, as even a widely respected “NGO monitor” is funded and staffed largely by the Jewish community! Bias seems to be ingrained in the human psyche! End of my comment]

Financial incentives can be earmarked to train PA security personnel in human rights practices, to construct modern penal institutions, and to reform the legal system.

Clearly, the U.S. has considerable economic leverage in the region, and could use that influence to demand human rights improvements. However, the [past – my comment] President may be reluctant to impose serious sanctions against the Palestinian entity or even push human rights as an issue in the peace talks. The primary objective of the U.S. in the region is peace and the secondary objective is the fight against terrorism. To rebuke the PA or to make human rights an issue in the negotiations would cause the U.S. to lose influence with the PA [my comment: which seems to have happened under Trump, as identified previously by Aljazeera] when dealing with other, ‘more important’ issues.

However, in the opinion of this author, the PA’s adoption of sound human rights policies and practices would contribute immeasurably to the success of the peace process. Although Arafat’s commitment to these values in the agreements was vague at best, the Palestinians’ expectations regarding an improvement in their lives deserves to be met, and should not be limited to issues of pride or economics. As the international community furnishes financial resources to the emerging Palestinian state, it should reflect on its complicity in the human rights abuses that have emerged.

If the internal reforms fail and pressure from the U.S., Israel, and the donor communities does not materialize, there is one last resort for the Palestinian Christians. Since the PA is not a sovereign state even it has administrative responsibilities in designated areas of the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli military rule is still in effect in the territories. This means that, legally speaking, human rights are the responsibility of the PA on a day-to-day basis, but the ultimate legal responsibility rests with Israel (Weiner 1995). Of course, the current Israeli government …frustrated by endemic Palestinian terrorism, would appear ill disposed to shouldering this responsibility, given its policy of unilateral disengagement.

(Insert: …in the enclave [Gaza strip], where some two million Palestinians live… Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.
The UN development agency has said the enclave, run by Islamist movement Hamas, could become uninhabitable by 2020, while others have warned of frustration spilling over and leading to fresh violence.

Israel strictly controls traffic into and out of Gaza, while the enclave’s border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.
UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, but Israel says it is necessary to keep Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials to make them.

Mike Smith (Tel Aviv), Middelburg Observer, 30 March 2017)

Therefore, the Israeli Supreme Court is the last resort for Palestinians living under the jurisdiction of the PA. The Supreme Court, long a liberal voice, has in recent years become increasingly committed to improving human rights and the rule of law, frequently demonstrating its commitment to ensuring human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. Of course, the Palestinian Christians living in the PA would be reluctant to utilize Israeli legal institutions, but, as victims, they clearly have a need for an institution of last resort, as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of Christians who have left the territories.

It seems logical that, instead of turning to Israeli courts, the Palestinian Christians should be able to turn to the PA’s justice system. This however, would be largely unproductive at the present time. The PA’s justice system has no practical autonomy from the executive branch, even though it is independent in theory. The PA President and Justice Minister can hire, fire, retire, and otherwise control all judicial employees, including judges at all levels. Two previous chief justices were ‘retired’ by the executive branch, one possibly for un unsympathetic comment made against the PA in an interview, and the second for a decision that called for the release of ten Birzeit University students who were being detained unlawfully. (Amnesty 1999:7)

The future of the Palestinian Christian community and any other religious minority living under the PA will rest on the potential for religious tolerance and the rejection of fundamentalist and archaic attitudes towards non-Muslims. As long as the Constitution of the PA reflects the principles of Sharia law, it seems as though the emergence of religious tolerance will remain highly unlikely. Additionally, the PA must crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad and eliminate their influence and role as the enforcers of the more brutal aspects of Sharia law [my comment: which appears even more unlikely than when this report was written, as they have now formed a threesome alliance; Fatah/Hamas/Islamic Jihad, see previous insert published by Aljazeera].

The testimonies (more found in the actual book – my comment) provided in this monograph make it pointedly clear that lawlessness and anarchy have swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years. Gangs of thugs and thieves have created what a former Palestinian cabinet minister described as “total chaos”. It is essential that the PA arrest these militants who, in their range of mafia-like conduct, frequently abuse and intimidate Christians. (Toameh 2002c)

The political conflict, or halting efforts to resolve it, can no longer be used by the international community as an excuse for evading responsibility for the gross human rights abuses the Palestinian Christian community has come to accept. Human rights standards cannot any longer be subordinated to political motives. Only when the international community is prepared to stand behind the lofty ideals enumerated in its formative instruments, with its full economic and political resources, will the perpetrators of such abuses be forced to relinquish habits of abuse and ascribe to the norms expected of all sovereign entities.”

Main body of this extract taken from ‘Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society’, written by Justus, Reid Weiner, 2005: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

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Latest Situation regarding Papua New Guinea and Manus Island Refugee Situation

Today’s (3/2/2017) Sydney Morning Herald and other major newspapers inform us of the embarassing situation Australia is finding itself in, due to Trump’s unsurprising ?final response regarding the so-called resettlement deal with America, brokered by the Obama administration during his last days in office.

Much has been and will be said about this:

As Christian intercessors we urgently need to pray as follows:

You may have heard today’s news about refugees on Papua New Guinea and Manus Island’s latest letdown and terrible ongoing trauma. Even though Trump seems to have extracted himself from the previous deal by Obama with our government, the responsibility for these refugees is and always has been our own government’s and it is my very strong conviction that we have failed miserably to care for them in a responsible and humane way!

This latest letdown for them will no doubt cause severe additional suffering and trauma and possible suicide and self-harm attempts.

We need to cover them in earnest and heartfelt prayer and ask our Lord to change the Australian government’s heart towards them; from a heart of stone to a heart of compassion.

Also pray for the Iranian refugee Loghman Sawari who has escaped to Fiji from Manus Island Detention Centre to seek asylum in Fiji. His future seems very bleak indeed! I admire him for his initiative and why shouldn’t he seek protection elsewhere, if Australia has failed to provide such!

Thank you, on behalf of the most powerless ones on this planet!

 

 

Prayer Call for Palestinians

bombed streetsDear praying friends,

Would you like to join me in praying for Christians who find themselves continuously surrounded by hateful, inflammatory speech, which in some cases has been part of generations of their families?

I particularly am thinking of Christians living in the Palestinian Territories, surrounded by but also filled with hatred for the Jewish State of Israel. Many of these Christians have put politics above the word of God. It is understandable in a way, for they are afflicted by severe poverty, often surrounded by bombed-out ruins from the last conflict with Israel and still vividly remember the bombings and the lost relatives and friends. The older ones among them may remember the houses and lands they once owned, which were taken by Israel; either assigned to them by international treaties or simply claimed. It is a potent recipe for hatred but anathema to a viable spiritual life in Christ! A tall order to ask them to forgive and even love their enemies! Matthew 5:44 (KJV) “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Nevertheless, no more difficult than to ask a victim of rape to forgive his/her abuser! It still stands and God asks us, by calling on His help, to obey His command, just like all His other commands.

I suggest therefore we pray as follows:

1) For God to reveal to Palestinian Christians the truth of His word about the need to forgive, no exceptions given.
2) That they would understand that they can only do so effectively by trusting in His Spirit’s help to do so.
3) For them to be given a sound mind, as in 2 Timothy 1:7(KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
4) For Scripture-based, Spirit-led teachers to teach rightly how to walk as a disciple of Christ.
5) For Palestinian Christians to make God their provider Matthew 6:25-34 (NET) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
6) For protection from other Palestinians who see forgiving their enemies as treason and may well want to kill those who profess and practice forgiveness towards their enemies.
7) For peace to come to this people group and for a desisting in making alliances with terrorist groups, which has been reaping destruction and devastation for its people.

Bless you for praying in faith!

Imminent new additional asylum seeker intake (2015) for Australia

Hello dear praying friends!

It’s been a while since my last posting. I had a welcome two weeks’ break and attended a four days conference to do with reconciliation in the world-wide Body of Christ. Truly inspiring!

Despite my silence, I hope that you have been persevering with praying for the needs of refugees. I certainly have!

I have felt greatly encouraged by Pope Francis’ clear exhortation to show more mercy to the plight of refugees and have spent some time reading through some people’s blogs about this issue. It is truly a divisive one in people’s minds. That’s when it is good to refer back to what God says in His word about how to treat the stranger and trust Him with the outcome, as we obey His word. Otherwise we become stuck with indecision, as many nations seem to be at present. That’s why it is good to have such an outspoken spokesperson on the issue as the Pope! May God bless him for it!

I feel that we now need to pray, in anticipation of the imminent new intake of extra refugees; that Australia – its authorities and population (us), would be ready to offer welcoming and warmth to the newcomers.

Attached find an article which explains in (hopefully) helpful detail what the new intake means. Julie Bishop has since confirmed this undertaking, despite the recent change of leadership.

Blessings to you!

Asylum seeker intake explained: Who will come to Australia under the Government’s plan?
By political reporter Anna Henderson and political editor Chris Uhlmann from the ABC
Updated 9 Sep 2015

The Federal Government has announced it will accept 12,000 extra refugees affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq.
Those accepted will be eligible for permanent resettlement in Australia.
But who will come, when will they get here and is Australia prepared for the new arrivals?

WHO WILL BE ELIGIBLE?

This is a one-off intake of 12,000 refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq. This additional quota is on top of the existing 13,750 places already set aside for this financial year.

Displaced women, children and families will be prioritised from camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Single men are considered best able to look after themselves.

There will be a focus on persecuted minorities.

Unaccompanied minors present a very difficult task in terms of both identification and resettlement because the Government has to become their guardian.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE SEEKING REFUGE?

There are 630,000 Syrians in Jordan who have already been registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There are 81,000 people in the Zaatari refugee camp. The situation in Lebanon and Turkey is less well ordered.

WHAT CHECKS WILL PEOPLE HAVE TO UNDERTAKE TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR REFUGEE STATUS?

Applicants will have identity, health, character and security checks. The identity checks will include taking biometric data.

Those chosen will have to complete an Australian values statement that pledges allegiance to the national way of life and laws.

Once they have been selected, there will be a final health check by one of the International Office of Migration’s panel doctors and a final security assessment.

There is no English language requirement and applicants could be assessed in the refugee camps or via video conferencing.

The refugees will be given permanent visas and will come to Australia on commercial flights.

WHEN WILL THE FIRST REFUGEES START ARRIVING?

It is hoped that the first group will arrive before Christmas, but the department already has a considerable caseload which includes the 13,750 people from the existing program and the 30,000 asylum seekers who have attempted to reach Australia by boat.

ARE AUSTRALIAN AUTHORITIES PREPARED?

The Immigration Department has a regional office in Dubai and an office in Amman. Other officials will be dispatched from Australia soon and a second wave in a month.

Immigration already has “intimate contact” with the UNHCR and a good knowledge of its systems.

CAN FAMILIES SPONSOR RELATIVES FOR THE POSITIONS?

Families that are already here cannot sponsor their family members under this program, but permanent residents can use existing family reunion programs to try and bring relatives to Australia.

HOW MUCH WILL THE 12,000-PLACE INCREASE COST?

The “conservative” estimate of the cost of this will be $700 million over the forward estimates. There is no quota system for states to share the burden and where people end up is yet to be sorted, but the Department of Social Services has a good idea of where the existing communities are.

WHY PUT AN EXTRA $44 MILLION INTO AID?

What the UNHCR wanted was money. The $44 million will help support 240,000 people through winter and into next year. The money comes from the emergency fund in DFAT’s Overseas Development Aid budget, which is used to respond to emergencies like tsunamis and earthquakes.

Some more promises to claim!

As we continue to pray for the latest prayer issue (refugees in and heading for Europe), we all have heard of many of those refugees abandoned in desert areas (the sea of course is another type of “desert area”), often due to people smugglers’ dodgy cars (or boats) braking down, or abandoned in “holding camps” awaiting ransom money from relatives and friends which never is paid. Their prospect is certain death.

We have a promise from the Lord Himself which we can claim on their behalf:

“Is. 43:16: Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea
And a path through the mighty waters…

and

Ia. 43: 19b) I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.”

2 Cor. 1:20 tells us that: ”For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God”.

As for the latter part of this Scripture, let’s pray that the glory due to God by acting on the above promises, would indeed go to Christ alone, the God Who Provides (Jehovah Jireh [Gen. 22:14]).

Let’s continue to have confidence that He hears us for, as we know and need to remind ourselves; “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16), and that the “eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15), and, again, “the prayer of the upright pleases Him” (Proverbs 15:8).

Thank you on behalf of those who can’t or have lost the will to call on God themselves!

Some Principles of Intercession by Pia

This morning, in my study time with the Lord, looking for another scripture, I “accidentally” came across a tremendous scripture to do with our prayer topic (refugees) and the root problem; wars on the earth, whether small or large. The scripture is found in Psalm 46:9

“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth

He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;

He burns the chariot of fire.”

Knowing this, we have a promise given by God about Himself. If we are willing to use this in an unrelenting way (may God give us perseverance!), in prayer and petition, we have the confidence that we are praying according to His will and therefore have that petition. Of course, just like the widow and the judge (Luke 18:1-8), Daniel (Daniel 10:12) and many others; perseverance is of the essence. I don’t know why that is; in my simplistic mind I seem to think that asking Him once and then just thanking Him will “do the job”. I think that we have to let the Spirit guide us when it is time to move from intercession to thanksgiving alone. Our independent selves are tempted to be guided mainly by our own understanding. It would seem simpler that way but the fruit will be missing (“for without Me you can do nothing” John 15:5). He wants “fruit that will last”.

God Himself said of those interceding about Jerusalem, “give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem..” Is. 62:7. This is the same principle at work in any issue of intercession.

Another, seemingly obvious one is the issue of a pure heart before God; “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” Ps 66:18. The reward is well worth it: the assurance of answered prayer and lasting peace!

Here is another article on intercession I found useful:

The Prayer of Intercession  By Gordon Robertson, CEO, Christian Broadcasting Network

Welcome to the third in our series on how to get answers to prayer. We want you to have the direct experience of knowing that God is both hearing your prayers and He is sending answers.

The third lesson has to do with how we know that God is answering. Well, the Apostle John gives us that answer in 1 John 5:14-15: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

So, here is a tremendous key. If we are praying in accordance with God’s will, then we have the confidence that He is hearing us. We also have the confidence that if we know that He is hearing us, we know that we have the answer to what we are praying for.

How do we know if we are praying in accordance to God’s will? One of the prime ways is to study the prayers that are recorded in the Bible. If we pray in accordance with those prayers, then automatically we know that we are praying in accordance with God’s will. If we are praying any particular promise of God, then we know that we are praying in accordance with His will. One of the great promises is from Jeremiah: Ask of Me, call to Me, and I will show you great and mighty things. So, if you are praying, ‘Lord, I am praying in accordance with Your promise,’ then you know you are praying in accordance with His will and you know that you have the thing that you are requesting.

Now, some things come up in our lives where we don’t know, where there isn’t a particular promise in the Bible that we can rely on. What do we do then? We have the Comforter, and that is the Holy Spirit.

 Here is what the Apostle Paul wrote: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26

What a tremendous promise that the Spirit Himself is making intercession for us. This is what happens when we get into what I call intercessory prayer, where, literally, we get such a burden of prayer that there are groanings within us. Usually, we are on our knees, crying out to God because of that tremendous burden of prayer. If you haven’t yet experienced that in your prayer life, please pray for it, please ask for it, please seek for this. It is a tremendous thing that happens when the Spirit literally overtakes you and fills you with such a burden of prayer that groanings literally come out of you as you are laboring and travailing in prayer. This kind of prayer is a supernatural kind of prayer.

I have experienced it when I have prayed for nations, when I have prayed for people groups, and there wasn’t a particular promise in the Bible for that particular nation but there was the general promise, ask of Me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance. When I began to pray that over particular nations, over particular people groups, then a tremendous burden of love and compassion and travailing prayer for that people group came over me. I started praying for laborers to go into that particular people group in accordance with Jesus’ admission to pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers to go into His harvest.

So, this links it all together, where we have the prayer of intercession, we have the Holy Spirit gifted to us, and the Holy Spirit then guides our prayers.

If you haven’t experienced this, please ask for this because it is a tremendous thing to be interceding in accordance with what the Spirit tells you.

Gordon Robertson became the Chief Executive Officer of CBN on November 30, 2007.  Prior to being named CEO, Gordon was the Executive Producer of The 700 Club for the past six years and a member of the board of directors for the past five years. He is also founder and president of CBN Asia, Inc. and founder and president of the Asian Center for Missions.