As Christian Zionism influences US policy in Israel, Palestinian evangelicals seek greater acceptance from the American church.
Fares Abraham grew up in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour, where tradition says the angels sang “Peace on Earth” to the startled shepherds. But his clearest memory is of his mother shot in the back by an Israeli soldier as she shuffled him and the neighborhood kids into her house during the first intifada (“uprising”).
Now in his mid-30s, the Liberty University graduate created Levant Ministries five years ago to mobilize Arab youth to fulfill the Great Commission.
And when he comes back home, he is at peace with his upbringing.
“When I was young, I asked myself if I should join the resistance or be a bystander,” he said to the 500 attendees—including 150 local Palestinian Christians—gathered in Bethlehem from 24 countries at the fourth biennial Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference in 2016.
“But now I can go up to a checkpoint, look a soldier in the eye, and say, ‘I forgive you and love you in the name of Jesus.’”
Working also with global partners, Abraham believes the younger generations are pro-peace, becoming increasingly pro-justice the more their lives are transformed by the gospel.
It is a message communicated at CATC, though its anti-Christian Zionism is often criticized as being anti-Israel.
“We as Palestinian Christians, victims of the occupation, want the worldwide evangelical church to stand with us,” said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust and a conference organizer.
“But after six years, I am hearing less and less of this focus. Before we allowed the political agenda to lead our theology. Now we ask how our gospel theology should drive us within the conflict and politics.”
But that was two years …