Reading through the press release below I was immediately struck by how very different this is from another recent Middle East conference held by Evangelicals. Where one was all about bringing in outside Evangelicals to make political points, this conference was held by predominantly Middle East Evangelicals to discuss issues affecting their region, preaching of the gospel and challenges facing believers in the Middle East. The earlier conference was unashamedly politically motivated, mischievously presenting one point of view only, whereas this conference eschewed politics and focused first and foremost on the body of Christ across the entire region. Where the earlier conference seemed predominantly about grandstanding, this conference was held in secret. Furthermore, where one conference largely failed to bring about reconciliation between believing Arabs and Jews, arguably causing long-term damage to Messianic and Arab Christian relations, this conference succeeded not only in bringing together Arab and Jewish believers from across the region, but also in furthering the gospel and needs of Evangelicals across the whole Middle East. What a refreshing change.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Here's the press release.
At the Crossroads - a unique gathering at Christ Church Jerusalem.
"In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria … Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance." (Isaiah 19:23-25)
Muslim background followers of Jesus from various Middle Eastern countries met with their Messianic Jewish and Christian counterparts May 7 – 12 in the Old City of Jerusalem at Christ Church, the oldest Protestant Church in the Middle East. Although similar conferences have been held over the years in the Middle East, this is the first time such a gathering has been held in Israel.
At the Crossroads convened in the context of Isaiah’s vision of a highway that will run from Egypt and Israel to Assyria - a model of worship and partnership for Christians across the region that will lead to the Middle East becoming a “blessing on the earth.”
More than seventy delegates came from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Palestinian Authority, Cyprus, Armenia, Turkey, Europe and North America. Worshiping and praying together in Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, Hebrew, and hearing testimonies about the blessings and challenges of following Jesus in our region were among the highlights of the conference.
Due to security concerns the conference was a closed, invitation only gathering. However, two sessions were open to local guests featuring speakers Rev. Andrew White, the “Vicar of Baghdad”, and Pastor Ali Pektash, a Muslim who came to faith in Jesus through a dream while on hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. Messianic Jewish and Palestinian leaders, including Taysir Abu Saada, author of Once an Arafat Man, also addressed the delegates, testifying to God's power not only to reconcile enemies but to enable them to take risks by crossing ethnic, political and religious divides to work together to expand God's kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in this troubled and unstable region.
In the words of one of the organizers, "It is all too easy for Christians in the Middle East to become ghettoized due to their minority status and the many ethnic and political divisions. Consequently we often fail to see how God is working in our midst. Our focus must extend beyond these conflicts and only the survival of existing Christian communities. Without ignoring the suffering and injustice in so many parts of our region, we should focus on the call of Jesus to expand God's sovereignty by making disciples, recognizing the crucial role Jewish believers in Israel have in the Great Commission to bless their neighbors with the Good News. And equally so, the followers of Jesus in the surrounding nations have a unique role in helping Israel become part of the blessing that God intends for this region."
The delegates resolved:
1. to rise above ethnic, political, and theological differences in the Body of Messiah, and to work together in expanding the Kingdom of God in our region.
2. to proclaim that "Egypt my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance" will indeed become a blessing in the midst of the earth.
3. to commit to work and pray for the blessing and salvation of all the peoples of the Middle East.
4. to mobilize people to go and make disciples as a practical expression of the Kingdom of God, recognizing that we now have a window of opportunity that may not remain open in the future.
5. to advocate and allocate resources for justice, helping the poor and mitigating persecution of Christians.
6. to establish a network of communication and intercession throughout the region and to meet together on a regular basis as a means of expressing the "one new man." (Eph.2:15)
For more information click here or contact us at: email@example.com.
At the Crossroads was made possible by the contributions of Christians world-wide and the generous support of the Israel Trust of the Anglican Church (CMJ Israel).
Christian anti-Zionists will have to get pretty imaginative to try and misrepresent this conference in their sterotypically biased way.
This brief conference account/outline certainly brings a glimmer of hope that, with meticulous planning wisdom, a forum can be created to develop the very real potential that exists for moving forward within a trusting environment. Nice one!
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