Prayer Palestinian Territories | 31 October 2023

Don't forget the Christians caught up in the Israel-Gaza conflict


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“The feeling we are getting … is that even the Christian world has left us. […] We have the feeling that Palestinian Christians do not matter.” 
—Rev. Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College, in an interview with Reformatorisch Dagblad

“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”
—Hebrews 13:3 (NLT)

As the war between Hamas and Israel continues to devastate the Gaza Strip, our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters are crying out for the world to pay attention to the deeply troubling situation. In particular, the Palestinian members of the Body of Christ are begging the world to remember them—including the global Church. God’s Word tells us that we are joined to God’s people in the West Bank and Gaza as “one Body and through one Spirit, and in one calling of hope” (Ephesians 4:4).  

Open Doors’ partners in the region say that Palestinian Christians feel trapped between their identity as Arabs and their faith as Christians. Similarly, they feel treated with suspicion by the West because they are Palestinian; and some Palestinians are wary of the believers because they follow Jesus. Messianic Jews feel the same; they say they are seen as traitors to Judaism and distrusted by their neighbors for being Israeli.

Open Doors is not against any nationality, government or religion. We are pro-Jesus Christ, which means we seek to act in sacrificial humility toward the goal of reconciliation—staying true to our calling to “strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Revelation 3:2). That’s why Open Doors has worked in the Holy Land for decades, helping our partners and local churches endure pressure and persecution. Like other Christians around the world, we are shocked and horrified by the brutal attacks on Israel by Hamas. We forcefully condemn such depraved violence.

We are concerned about the ongoing war and its impact on the civilian population. It’s clear that civilians are being hurt and killed by Israel’s ongoing bombing and shelling campaign. We are particularly concerned for the 1,070 Christians in Gaza and the more than 45,000 believers in the West Bank, Arab Christians and Messianic believers in Israel. 

The unending conflict sickened me, but what hurt even more was knowing that my brothers and sisters were caught in the midst of the fighting.

Brother Andrew
Our founder, Brother Andrew—best known around the world as “God’s Smuggler”—didn’t simply believe in the need to stand with Israeli and Palestinian Christians. He demonstrated it by traveling numerous times to the region, forming deep relationships with Palestinian Christians in both Gaza and the West Bank, Messianic believers and Arab Christians in Israel. 

He also shocked the world by meeting with leaders of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad! He didn’t seek a meeting to legitimize these groups—but because he believed they needed to know Jesus above all else. Whenever he could, Brother Andrew took the opportunity to speak with them about the power of the gospel to change their lives.

In his book, Light Force (written with Al Janssen), Brother Andrew’s words seem prophetic for the current time. “The unending conflict sickened me, but what hurt even more was knowing that my brothers and sisters were caught in the midst of the fighting. Believers in Jesus Christ lived in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. … I was convinced that there was a contribution that the Christian community could make. Perhaps it was only to be a light.” 

Open Doors is convinced that it’s time once again for the global Church to answer God’s call and be a light in the darkness of the current conflict. And we invite you to get involved. 

First, to listen to the voices of our brothers and sisters in the region.

Second, to pray with and for them.

And third, to seek unity in the Church.

1. Listen 

Open Doors calls on the Church around the world to listen to the voices and witness of the Israeli and Palestinian Christian communities. We are especially troubled by their vulnerable condition because of the marginalization they experience due to their faith, which has now been compounded by this ongoing crisis. As the world takes sides in the conflict, it can be difficult to hear the voices of the believers in the region—but our faith tells us that we must because we are commanded to love our sisters and brothers (1 John 4:21). 
We are worried that the ongoing pressure on the Palestinian people will threaten the Christian witness in the Holy Land. “I think we are all shocked after seeing all that is there on the TV and social media,” one Palestinian believer who lives in the West Bank told Open Doors. “I’m in daily and constant communication with our brothers and sisters who found shelters in the two churches [in Gaza City]. They are highly terrified, and one of them told me last night, ‘We can smell death.’” 

“Everybody in Israel knows someone who knows someone or family members who have been murdered, badly injured or taken hostage,” says Pastor Evan Thomas, a Messianic believer who ministers in Central Israel. “We are a nation in shock and grief and deeply concerned that our government and armed forces failed to prevent this from happening. 

He adds: “We are in close contact and unity with our Arab Christian communities and are regularly in prayer together and communicating encouragement to one another in our mutual grief.”

I say: Love Israel and its neighbors, including the Palestinians.

Rev. Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College, in an interview with Reformatorisch Dagblad
“The feeling we are getting here, is that even the Christian world has left us. Very few are praying equally for the Palestinians and the Israelis,” said Rev. Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College, in an interview with Reformatorisch Dagblad. “We have the feeling that Palestinian Christians do not matter. We feel [like we are seen as a] nuisance. … Here, we think of one Church; we do not think of two people of God. But that is held against us, as us being anti-Israel or even antisemitic. What we need from Christians all over the world is a message of encouragement. We are so discouraged by the situation. We are here anyway; we will last here because we believe that God is calling us for our people, the Palestinians. I say: Love Israel and its neighbors, including the Palestinians.”

This posture of unity drives our actions. And it must drive us first to our knees in prayer. 

2. Pray 

One of Open Doors’ Core Values is that we are “people of prayer.” And therefore, we stand with believers in the Middle East and call on Christians around the world to pray for peace in the region. One Christian (name withheld for security reasons), who is part of a movement of believers who converted from Islam in the region, shares: 

Our prayer is that God will bring His peace into the region.

A local Christian from a Muslim background
We see our area is burning down [and has been] boiling for many years. In a time of a war, nobody will be the winner. All parties will lose. This is what Jesus Christ told us: to pray for the peace and the shalom of Jerusalem. And shalom, according to the Bible, is not only the absence of war and the absence of problems, but shalom means the security that God will give into our lives.

Our prayer is that God will bring His peace into the region. Our hearts go out to the many Jewish families who lost loved ones, or are mourning their children, their wives and husbands [who have been taken hostage], and those who are traumatized from this terrible attack. But [our hearts are also with] the innocent people who live in Gaza, men and women, children who are not part of this struggle. Our prayers are that the Lord has mercy on them.

So let us join together to pray for peace for Jerusalem, peace for Israel, peace for the people in the West Bank, peace for the people in Gaza, peace for our people in Lebanon and Syria and Iraq, in the name of Jesus.

Open Doors echoes this believer’s call and prays against the schemes of Satan that try to divide and foster violence in this conflict. We pray against any ideology that plots to destroy lives, civilian communities, nations or those who are against seeking peaceful ways to live with one another. 

Join us and believers in the Holy Land as we pray for the way of Jesus to be realized as the answer to this conflict. “It was on the cross that Jesus won: not with weapons, not with political power, not by great means, nor by imposing Himself,” wrote Cardinal Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, in a recent letter. “The peace He speaks of has nothing to do with victory over others. He won the world by loving it. It is true that a new reality and a new order began on the cross. The order and the reality of the one who gives His life out of love. With the Resurrection and the gift of the Spirit, that reality and that order belong to His disciples. To us. God's answer to the question of why the righteous suffer is not an explanation, but a Presence. It is Christ on the cross. It is on this that we stake our faith today.”

Join us as we pray for wisdom for international leaders—including those of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Ask God to soften hard hearts, bringing the peace only He can offer. Finally, pray for a ceasefire and that those who would seek to destroy would be thwarted and have their hearts changed.

When we pray these bold prayers, we do something bigger than political action or protest. We begin to see that, in Jesus, we are united with our sisters and brothers—that we are all members of one Body of Christ. 

3. Seek the unity of the Church 

Open Doors echoes the calls for unity by Christians in the Middle East—that we would see one Church rather than a fractured Body. In a recent sermon, an evangelical pastor in Egypt (which borders Gaza) gave an impassioned call for unity: “Our neighboring countries are in severe crisis. In the New Testament, we find that God loves all nations equally, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and masters, poor and rich; in Christ, there is no man and woman, Jew and Greek, He loves all equally. He loves those who believe in Him, His children, as much as those who do not believe in Him. He loves them, and He died for them.

.. Blood is flowing in the lands, and God is watching in great sorrow.

An evangelical pastor in Egypt, in a sermon
“And on our borders, there is a war, between two nations, between two different religions, battling. One of them has enormous support, and another is weak and struggling; the language used is the language of blood, bullets, bombs and destruction. And blood is flowing in the lands, and God is watching in great sorrow. For every life that is taken from either side, it breaks the Father’s heart, because He loves both sides equally.”

Open Doors believes that the Church is one Body (Romans 12:5). When one part suffers, we all suffer with it (1 Corinthians 12:26). Therefore, when the staff of Open Doors’ local partners are struggling to serve believers across the region, we are driven to stand with them in prayer, knowing that our prayers will strengthen and encourage them. 

Brother Andrew never shied away from speaking out against injustice, even in complicated situations. In Light Force, he writes about his reaction to seeing suicide bombings in the Middle East: “Who was going to the terrorists? Was anyone prepared to confront them and give them a reason to live that was greater than their motivation to die? How can they know about the Prince of Peace if no one goes and tells them?” 

This kind of radical faith is one we seek to emulate.

As Open Doors, we love the followers of Jesus on all sides, and we love people as they are made in the image of God, no matter their national, religious or ethnic identity. Jesus died for His bride, which is one Church, one Body. We support and pray for and with followers of Christ—Arab and Palestinian Christians, and Messianic Jews—because we strongly believe that God has His Church there to advance the gospel through His people, to show Muslims and Jews the hope and love of Jesus, and to offer His forgiveness and love, His reconciliation and justice. We urgently call on the Church around the world to wake up and join us as we listen, pray and seek unity.


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