The recent tragic events in Israel have led to new rounds of attacks and reprisals, with more than 230 missiles fired into southern Israel, leading to a forceful Israeli military response. The current attacks started on June 12, 2014, with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli Jewish teens, one of whom was an American citizen. In retaliation, an Arab Moslem teen, Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, from the town of Shofat in East Jerusalem was also kidnapped and murdered by being burned alive. Israeli police have arrested six Jewish Israelis for the murder, and three of them have now admitted their involvement with the teen’s torture and murder. Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Mohammed’s father to offer his condolences to the family. It is unlikely that the Palestinian police will act with such dispatch as did the Israeli police.
My dear and deeply respected friend Steven Khoury is pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Shofat. Pastor Khoury is an Arab-Israeli Christian who also serves as Vice President of Holy Land Missions, which supports six churches throughout Israel. Over the past decades. Pastor Khoury has witnessed members of his churches attacked and persecuted. His own father was shot by Moslem militants, and his uncle was martyred for the sake of Jesus Christ. Several young girls from his church were also martyred for their Christian faith. What was their crime? The girls invited other children to attend the church’s Vacation Bible School. Pastor Khoury is a published author, and he writes frequently for Al-Quds, the largest Arabic newspaper in the Holy Land.
Pastor Khoury and his congregations have endured numerous threats and attacks, and on June 30, 2014, after eight years of active ministry and evangelistic outreach in the Shofat area, the church closed at that location. Within hours, with the kidnapping and murder of the Moslem teen, riots, shootings, street fires, and great anger erupted in the neighborhood of the church. A Moslem, obviously sensing something was now different in his neighborhood, came to one of the leaders of the now closed Baptist church, and said, “Did you see what happened when you left the neighborhood? You took your covering of blessings and grace from our neighborhood with you?” Christians realize that the cover of God’s blessings is brought to a neighborhood and nation through a praying fellowship of Christian believers.
During the coming days and weeks, Pastor Khoury and his congregants plan to meet with the families of both of the murdered Moslem and Jewish teens. Among the Jews and Palestinians in Israel, the depth of hatred and animosity runs deep. It is expected that retaliation and revenge can lead to another intifada in short order. Here you can a short video of Rev. Khoury visiting Shofat this past weekend, and speaking with a Moslem teen. You can hear that the young man has no forgiveness in his heart. It is quite jarring to hear the youth speak.
It is only the true Love of Jesus Christ that brings real peace to the heart of man, and transforms our natural inclination for hatred, retribution, and revenge. It is through efforts of Pastor Khoury and members of his congregation, like the saints of the first century who choose to be salt and light in a hostile Jerusalem, bathed in the prayers of Christians around the world, who can make known the Love and Light of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who desperately need Him. As you watch events unfold in Israel, please remember to pray for the witness and ministry of this young and courageous Arab Christian pastor and his fellow Christian believers in Israel. Please also remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as we are instructed in Psalm 122:6.