A Minority Within a Minority: Arab Israeli Pastor Tells Story of Sharing Christ in the Holy Land
- Well, it's called the Holy Land
and the Holy Land is amelting pot of faith,
politics, and ideology.
In a setting thatcombines biblical history
and present day turmoil,
this chaotic atmosphere
could make life difficult for Christians
who often get caught in the middle.
CBN Middle East Bureau ChiefChris Mitchell has that story.
- [Chris] Pastor Steven Khoury
embraces his task of guiding the faithful
through what some may calla minefield of society.
A volatile mix of ideology,history, and family
in a land where Christians make up
a fraction of the population,
surrounded by Jewishand Muslim majorities.
- Living in this dividedland as a Christian Arab
has challenged me to tear down barriers.
- [Chris] Born in Bethlehem,
Khoury is president of Holy Land Missions.
For 30 years, it has reachedout to Arab Christains
struggling in times of poverty and war.
Unlike most Arabministries, HLM is based on
what they call Full Covenant Theology,
meaning the belief that God's Covenants,
including to Israel, are eternal.
- I remember some yearsago going to Bethlehem,
there was a guy namedMalias Fresh, who was mayor.
He's a Christian, and Bethlehem
was essentially a Christian town.
And the last time I was there,
Yasser Arafat had hisheadquarters in Bethlehem
and there was an armed camp.
Now Steven Khoury is founder
of what's called the Holy Land Missions
and he's pastor ofJerusalem's Baptist church.
And Steven's here with us.
Steven you're Israeli-Arab Christian,
you grew up in Bethlehem,
and you've seen a whole bunch of warriors
in that Holy City haven't you?
- We sure have.
I was born in Jerusalem as you mentioned.
I grew up seeing a lotta blood shed,
a lot of war over the years,
and the only hope that Isaw come to peoples' hearts
is the hope of Jesus Christ.
- What has happened underthe Palestinian Authority?
Have they persecuted Christians?
Can you give me some examplesof what they've done?
- Well, in 2010, thePA deemed our Ministry,
which is EvangelicalBorn-Again church community,
as illegitimate church,
so they defranchised us andcalled us illegitimate in 2010,
meaning not acceptingmarriage certificates,
any birth certificates, so what be it,
and solely on the fact thatwe have different beliefs
than the other Christianswithin the community.
They've come a long way.
Thanks for the pressures ofInternational governments,
so they've come a longway than what they were,
but they can still do a lot more.
At one point, Bethlehem was 85% Christian
and 15% Muslim and other,
and now the pendulum's completely swapped.
When you talk about Bethlehem
and surrounding villages and towns,
there's only about 15% to 16% Christian,
all denominations lumpedtogether, and less.
- What's happened?
Has the Palestinian Authority actually
driven the Christians out?
Have they arrested 'em,what have they done?
- Well, it's lack ofjobs, lack of economy,
of course, pressures as well
from some of the fanaticswithin the community
that have pressured Christians,
Christian communities out and so forth.
And it's interesting becausewhat it comes down to it is
what is the answer?
That is the question.
And what we've realized,
my father, who startedthe church in Bethlehem,
what we've realized today, brother Pat,
is that we have to sitdown and build bridges
in the context ofbuilding bridges on truth.
How do you do that?
Well, we've showed the PA that
when you work with the other side,
in honesty, in integrity, and trust,
when you do that, actuallyit builds a society.
So recently we've been able to meet
with many world leaders and to tell them
that the answer for the Arab solution
isn't a political answer,
it's the outcome of it is the politics,
but it stems from the heart issue
and building relationships.
- I remember talking to your father
and he indicated thatwhen Christians or others
went to Mecca on the Hajj,
that they came back with a bad spirit,
something happened to them.
Could you amplify that?
You know what I'm talking about?
- Yeah, you know, theysay get overcome by,
they're overcome by emotional spirit,
that's what they say,but, of course, we know
it's the good versus theevil within their spirit,
it's the God nature within them,
fighting the evil naturethat exists within mankind.
That's why we alwayshave been asked on media
and others, what's the answer?
The answer is Jesus, that's the answer.
There's no more simple way to put it
and that's why Jerusalemis such a big part
in this Middle Eastern process.
What do we do?
There is a movement todayto eradicate Christianity
from the Arab part of Jerusalem.
And they've called us as theonly ones standing in their way
from eradicating Christianityand it's 'cause we're
very strong in sharing the gospel.
We're very strong in bringingJews and Arabs together,
Muslim-Arabs, Christian-Arabs,and Jewish people,
Orthodox Jews together to sit down.
It's not an interface.
Sitting down to sortof humanize each other,
to understand that you havea different belief system,
you have different convictions,but that does not make you
any lesser human being than I am,
nor does it give methe right to attack you
or hurt you or kill you becauseyou have different views.
And that's led us totoday having the honor
to speak in many Jewish synagogues.
I, as an Arab, speak in a synagogue,
but talk about Jesus.
- Now, what's life like for you,
a Palestinian-Arab Christianliving in Bethlehem,
living in Jerusalem.
What's it like?
- Brother Pat, I've seen ashift in so many dynamics,
from politics, from faith,from dwindling numbers
and statistics, it's an up and down wave.
We've seen suffering, we'veseen persecution over the years.
Sometimes, it's instigated by government.
Sometimes the government steps in to help.
If things have come a long way,
are things better in thePalestinian communities
than they were?
100%, they're better.
That's because of Christiansaround the world praying
for the piece of Jerusalem and the land,
Christians around theworld, folks like yourself,
bringing stories outtathere to expose to the world
Of course, pressures frominternational leaders
and Christian leaders and world leaders
on the Israeli-Palestinian leadership
to create an atmospherethat's safer for Christianity.
That's why it all goes back to Jerusalem.
That's why we are focused much on creating
a center in Jerusalem.
- I was reading in Isaiahtoday where he says,
"Give the Lord no restuntil he makes Jerusalem
"a praise in the midstof all the nations."
- That's right, that's right.
- I mean, don't give him any rest.
You keep praying constantlyfor Jerusalem to be--
- You keep knocking it.
That's why I wanna tell youand others who have been
praying for Jerusalem.
Don't give up on Jerusalem.
When you pray for the Jews,we have to pray for the Arabs.
There is enough room inthe heart of the father
to love the Jews, to love the Arabs.
We see ourselves, brother Pat,
as an Arab-Christian community,
evangelical, born again.
We see ourselves a big partof helping bringing peace
By bringing people to the scriptures
that the God that weserve is a God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob.
This is a biblical fact andthat's why we have to invest
in Jerusalem from a biblical perspective
and of course, from acovenant perspective as well.
- Steven, thank you somuch for being here.
May the Lord bless you
and be with you.- Thank you, Brother Pat.
Thank you.- God bless you, thank you.
- Steven Khoury, Holy Land Missions,
a place where we should pray.
That's what it said,don't give God any rest.
(laughs) Not only yourself,don't stop praying
for the peace of Jerusalem.