While Brother Andrew became famous as a courageous smuggler who delivered Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, few people realize he has spent the last thirty years on a different quest. He now travels to Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and Israel to support the struggling church. Why? Because he recognized that the lack of Christian support for Christians in this part of the world mirrors much of what he saw in his travels behind the Iron Curtain.
Few Western Christians realize that the Christian population of Palestinian Arabs who have lived in Israel since the time of the apostles has dwindled from almost 10% in 1947 to 2% today. Why? Brother Andrew believes this is largely due to the lack of prayer support, paltry encouragement and increasing political isolation. Most of the world, including Christians, looks at the tensions of the Middle East as a problem between Jewish Jews and Muslim Palestinians; the Christians have largely been forgotten.
Ma’ariv, one of the daily newspapers in Israel is quoted as saying that Christian Arabs are afraid to speak out. "Out of fear for their safety, Christian spokesmen aren't happy to be identified by name when they complain about the Muslims' treatment of them...off the record they talk of harassment and terror tactics, mainly from the gangs of thugs who looted and plundered Christians and their property, under the protection of Palestinian security personnel.” (2001)
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs asserts the following:
-Palestinian policemen in Beit Sahur opened fire on a crowd of Christian Arabs, wounding six. The Palestinian Authority is attempting to cover up the incident and has warned against publicizing the story. The local commander of the Palestinian police instructed journalists not to report on the incident....
-The pastor of a church in Ramallah was recently warned by Palestinian Authority security agents that they were monitoring his evangelistic activities in the area and wanted him to come in for questioning for spreading Christianity.
-A Palestinian convert to Christianity living in a village near Nablus was recently arrested by the Palestinian police. A Muslim preacher was brought in by the police, and he attempted to convince the convert to return to Islam. When the convert refused, he was brought before a Palestinian court and sentenced to prison for insulting the religious leader....
-A Palestinian convert to Christianity in Ramallah was recently visited by Palestinian policemen at his home and warned that if he continued to preach Christianity, he would be arrested and charged with being an Israeli spy.
There are many other human rights concerns besides Christian human rights abuses. House demolitions, suicide bombers, the concerns of Jews being targeted by Palestinian rocket fire and the plight of Palestinians who are being separated because the Israeli security fence are other major concerns.
These issues are not unique in the world where the church is in its infancy. Whether one looks at Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kashmir, Nigeria, Tibet, Niger, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia etc. persecution of minority peoples, which often includes an infant Christian church, is drastically affecting the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ because of discrimination. To ensure the witness of the gospel can be heard, one needs to ensure the gospel can be proclaimed. When Paul asks “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10: 14) Paul presumes the preacher is alive and able to live among the people to whom he is called to preach.
To address this volatile situation, Taylor students will be serving both in Israel/Palestine and subsequently when they come back to Canada. While in Israel they will
• provde a witness to Muslims and Jews as we support those caught in violence and discuss the issues of peace and reconciliation from a Christian perspective
• work as escorts for children going to school through hostile areas
• take part in street patrols and prayer walks
• engage in meetings with community members to nurture non-violent change based on the example of Jesus Christ
• engage in public action where appropriate
• provide an international presence to ensure unrestrained violence doesn’t get out of control
• document violence and abuse
• lead worship
• engage in street theatre
When the students get back to Canada, the research collected will be collated and used to ensure
• those affected by the violence are not silenced, forgotten or misrepresented; this will include presentations in churches and bible study groups
• the voice of the abused minority is heard by those who can apply political pressure to rectify these abuses; this will include presenting our documentation and/or communicating with our local political representatives
Taylor students will also be working with long-time missionaries from Christian Peacemaker Teams International to listen, record, document and share the stories of the abused in Israel and Palestine. This research in turn will be used by Christian Peacemaker Teams to educate and pressure politicians to ensure that minority groups in Israel/Palestine are aren’t overlooked and that minority human rights are protected along with the majority populations. Why? So that these persecuted people will be able to say with Paul when he was being persecuted: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned (II Cor. 4:8,9). We go “to encourage the timid, and help the weak (I Thess. 5:14). We go so the story of human rights abuses by our brothers and sisters will be documented and heard by their Christian brother in Canada; we go with the hope that these stories will lead to fervent prayer; we go to research and document, praying that this research will be used by politicians and peacemakers to ensure religious freedom and human rights are upheld for all people and not just for the majority.