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ENCOURAGEMENT ABOUT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Father God, thank You for this good report about religious freedom in the Middle East. (Numbers 14) We thank You that You can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20)

First, some context. I am the grandson of Orthodox Jews who escaped from Russia in the early years of the 20th century when Jews were being beaten, raped and murdered in the “pogroms.” By God’s grace, my grand-parents and great-grandparents came to America and it was here that they were free to pray, keep kosher, and study Torah.

It was here that my father was raised Orthodox Jewish. It was here that my father was free to study not only the Hebrew Scriptures, but the New Testament, as well. Free to study and explore. Free to ask hard and unpopular questions.Free to come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is, in fact, the Messiah of whom our prophets wrote and our people longed. So, in 1973, my father became follower of Jesus.

A few years later, I became a follower of Jesus, as well, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Five years ago, my wife and sons and I were free to make another choice – we embarked on a process known as “making Aliyah.” That is, we became citizens of Israel. To be clear, we became dual citizens of the U.S. and Israel.We sold our home, sold or gave away most of our possessions, and moved to Israel to start a new life.

Today, we live in Jerusalem. Two of our sons serve in the Israeli army. Slowly but surely, we’re putting down our roots in ancient soil. It has been the hardest and most exciting journey of our lives, and it has given us a unique perspective on the state of religious freedom in Israel.

The State of Israel is certainly not perfect, yet it is a modern miracle.

  • Born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.
  • The fulfillment of ancient prophecies.
  • Thriving, despite repeated wars and enemies Hell-bent on our annihilation.
  • A booming economy.
  • And a robust and raucous democracy – the only in our region.

What’s more, Israel is a magnificent model of religious freedom. A safe harbor for Jews from all over the world, regardless of how religious or secular they may be. And the safest, freest country in the Mideast for people of all faiths, and no faith.

  • 75% of Israel’s 9 million citizens are Jews.
  • 20% are Muslims or Druze — full citizens, with equal rights, absolutely free to attend mosque, read the Qur’an, and raise their children in their faith.
  • Only about 2% are Christians — Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals, and Messianic Jews; we are a small minority, but absolutely free to practice our faith & to preach it.

Do religious minorities in Israel face a variety of governmental and societal challenges? We do, including an inordinate and unhealthy control by one faith stream – ultra-Orthodox Judaism, a relatively small minority – over political decisions affecting the lives of everyone else, the vast majority in Israel, including rules governing marriage, divorce, burial, immigration and so much else.

There is much Israel’s government can and should do to make reforms and improve the quality of life for religious minorities – and the sooner the better.

That said, regardless what you hear from our critics, Muslims and Christians do not face government persecution. And there is certainly no apartheid.

  • Muslim, Druze and Christian Arabs have served as Members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, since the founding of the modern state – 81, in fact – including 12 at this very moment.
  • Muslims, Druze and Christians serve with distinction in Israel’s military, police, academia, media, and businesses — just last week, a brilliant Israeli Arab Muslim was named chairman of one of Israel’s largest banks.
  • Arab Christians and Muslims even serve as Justices on the Israeli Supreme Court.

Challenges remain, including our wrenching conflict with the Palestinians, for which we must continue to work and pray for peace and reconciliation.

Still, I am deeply encouraged by the state of religious freedom in Israel today.

I’m also pleased to report that something very hopeful is happening with regards to the safety and freedom of Christians in the Arab world.

Today, the situation is vastly different.

  • Arab Muslim leaders have been valiantly fighting to defeat the forces of Radical Islamism.
  • Tens of millions of Muslims, Christians, Yazidis have been liberated from the forces of barbarism and savagery.
  • A growing number of Arab governments are waging an ideological and theological battle against Radical Islamists in their mosques, schools and on social media, and are training a new generation of clerics to preach moderation and mutual respect.
  • Some Arab Muslim kings and crown princes, presidents and prime ministers are calling for a new era of peaceful coexistence with Christians and Jews.
  • Some are even inviting Christians to meet with them to improve religious freedom and the quality of life for Christians in their countries.

Such trends are not receiving nearly enough attention, but they should for they are real and historic.

Over the last two decades, I have traveled extensively across North Africa and the Middle East, from Morocco to Afghanistan, building friendships with Muslims and Christians. . . .

In each country, we made it clear we were not coming for a photo op, but to build long-term strategic friendships. And in each country, our talks were friendly, even warm. We listened to each leader’s vision for reform, and his record of accomplishments. We asked candid questions about the challenges facing Christians in their countries, and about the plans they have for improving religious freedom for Christians and all religious minorities. . . .

In January, President el-Sisi asked me to bring an Evangelical Delegation to attend the dedication of the gorgeous “Nativity of the Christ Cathedral” near Cairo. I was honored to do so, and then visited the cathedral again a few days later with my friend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

When was the last time that a devout Muslim president, leader of the world’s largest Arab country, built a church – the largest in the Middle East – and gave it as a gift to the Christians of his country on Christmas Eve?

My friends, this was a game-changing moment, sending a powerful message not only to all Egyptians, but to all Muslims, that Muslims and Christians really can live together in peace, despite our real and profound differences. . . .

I don’t want to paint a rosy, naïve picture. Enormous challenges remain for Christians and other religious minorities in the Arab world. Deep change must occur in education, culture and government. But, as a dual-U.S.-Israeli citizen, a Jewish Evangelical, building friendships with leaders throughout the Jewish and Muslim world, I see signs of hope. And I believe that when leaders of any country advance real reforms and make real progress – especially in the area of religious freedom – they should be publicly praised, even as we encourage them to do more. . . .

Perhaps the most uncomfortable element for some when it comes to discussing religious freedom is the right not only to choose one’s faith, but to change it. Yet we must not shy away from this topic, sensitive though it is.

For having the freedom to decide what we believe about God – and the freedom to change our mind – is a sacred human right, granted to us by God Himself. Government’s job is not to grant rights, but to guard them. And no human right – none – is more important than the right to seek the truth about who God is, how we can know Him personally, and how our soul can spend eternity with Him.

This is the freedom my father found here in America. And this is the freedom that changed his life, and mine. (Excerpts from Joel Rosenberg’s Blog. Joel Rosenberg is a New York Times best selling author.)

279 People Prayed
496 People have read this article

7 Replies to “ENCOURAGEMENT ABOUT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE MIDDLE EAST”

  1. This is very good on one level. I am concerned that we might become satisfied with social peace, and forget that it does not equal salvation for those who do not yet know Christ. We, like Paul, rely on not having persuasive words of wisdom, but on demonstration of the Holy Spirit and His power…like now in Iran (see the next article)!

  2. Heavenly Father, in the Name of Your Precious Son, King of Kings, Lord of Lords I praise and thank you for the encouragement you have given through this report by Joel Rosenberg. What a beautiful story about his Father’s faith walk, and proves if we seek Him He will allow us to find Him especially if we read His Word. Thank you for advances made in bringing more peace to the Middle East and also giving us a truer picture of life there than what we get from main stream media. So interesting how many Muslims leaders are working to bring peace, and to eliminate the hatred motivating Muslim terrorists. Thank you Lord for the Holy Land where you chose to come to be the perfect sacrifice for sins of all for all time. Praise, Honor, Glory to the Holy Trinity. Amen

  3. Karen, I agree with you, except for one thing. The Spirit (of God) is not ” it.” The Spirit (of God) is “He.”
    He goes where He wants. He can’t be stopped. He brings all to the foot of the cross.
    All things are possible with God/Jesus, and we must understand and except that He, alone, is in control. God has a perfect plan and the timing of His plan is known only to Him.

    Isaiah 55:8-9

  4. LORD JESUS, Let us not take our freedom for granted that we have in You! Let us protect it with our very lives if neccessary. Let us walk in it and give it to the world that they may walk in it. AMEN

    1. Thank you Abba Father in the name of Yeshua for your redemptive promise to Abraham! Help us to see beyond the physical realm and into your glory that is filled with your love. Help us keep our eyes on the prize as the prodigal apple of your eye returns to your favor. Baruch ha Shem Adonai.

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