AMMAN: Palestinian evangelicals celebrated a decree issued by President Mahmoud Abbas recognizing the Evangelical Council in the Holy Land as representative of local Christians.
In a celebratory event held at the Bethlehem Bible College, Reverend Munir Kakish outlined a 12-year effort to organize evangelicals in Palestine in a single body and to seek recognition.
Kakish said that Palestinian churches are national ones who reject racist ideologies that Palestine is subjected to.
“Our evangelical churches pray to God for our Palestinian leadership and support its peaceful effort for independence and the creation of a state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Jack Sara, the president of the Bethlehem Bible College, told Arab News that the recognition comes after many year of campaigning. “We have received most of our demands and we await full recognition to be the 14th denomination in Palestine.”
Sara, who was part of a Palestinian clergy visit to Brazil to convince its new leadership not to move the embassy to Jerusalem, said that the efforts of Palestinian evangelicals helped make the recognition possible.
“We are proud of our Palestinian heritage and our national identity.”
Ramzi Khoury the head of the Higher Presidential Commission for Church Affairs and the Palestinian National Fund, was awarded a plaque of appreciation by the council. Khoury called on evangelicals “to be the ambassadors around the world to strengthen he position in support of Palestinian statehood.”
Bernard Sabela, a member of the Palestinian legislative council representing the Christian seat in Jerusalem and the secretary of Palestinian refugee affairs with the Middle East Council of Churches, welcomed the decision.
“Every church group, including evangelicals, should have the same rights to take care of its people through ecclesiastical courts. This is the right step in the right direction, the hard work has paid off.”
Orthodox Archbishop of Sabastian Atallah Hanna told Arab News that he supported the decision.
“It is important that Palestinian evangelicals communicate with fellow evangelicals around the world and to talk about the Palestinian cause. I disagree that all Christian evangelicals adopt the Zionist narrative. I congratulate the evangelical council and express support for this decision.”
Rateb Y. Rabie, president of the Washington-based Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, also welcomed the move, saying that Palestinian evangelicals are in a unique position to address other evangelicals.
“They speak the same language and are able to quote the Bible in a way that debunks the attempts by some to justify occupation and subjugation.”
Thomas Getman, former director of World Vision in Jerusalem, told Arab News that 80 percent of US evangelicals misrepresent the Bible for political gain.
“The Falwells and Hagues and others support apolitical entity in defiance of God’s word.”
Getman told Arab News that the recognition of Palestinian evangelicals is essential to give credibility to the attempts at debunking Christian Zionists.
This story was first published in Arab News and is used with permission.
We also received from Daoud Kuttab the following quote that was not published (possibly for space reasons).
Botrus Mansour, chair of the Evangelical Convention in Israel welcomed the inclusive approach that the Palestinian presidency has taken to grant the Evangelical churches the needed recognition. “It is a historical and unprecedented step and shows that the rights related to religion and worship are honored in the Palestinian Authority.” Mansour urged the Israeli government follow suit. “We urge Israel to walk in the same steps and grant our community in Israel the same rights-something we have been demanding for several years,” he told Arab News.