Jerusalem: searching for peace
JERUSALEM (BP) -- As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, He wept. He thought about the people within its walls and said, "If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace." He knew within hours He'd be crucified by the very people for whom He wept. Would Jesus still look over the city and weep 2,000 years later? Most believe He would. Jerusalem is a city where stress runs high and the strain of so many people practicing so many religions in such a small area makes the tension palpable. Many seek a blessing or a healing or some connection with God through well-meaning, but mistaken, devotion. Bitter division resides just below the surface. Christians, Jews, Muslims -- each group would be pleased if the other two simply exited the city walls and disappeared into the barren countryside. Rebecca* considers herself nonreligious. She's a bus driver expecting her first child and is married to a devout Jew. She says the relationship works. She ponders the question: What would it take for peace to come to Jerusalem? "[Peace] between the Jewish people or between everybody?" she asks. "It's a good question because there is no peace between the Jewish people. The religious [don't] accept the not religious. The religious people themselves, they have a few groups they don't like or don't accept each other, and with the Arabs I think when we have the peace between us it will be easy to make the peace with them, I hope." Many who actually want peace see it as something to be brokered; something that's been pursued by leaders for decades, yet to date has proven elusive. Still many hold out hope for a negotiated solution. "We all want peace," a local rabbi says. "In order to achieve this goal, we must realize that Jerusalem is holy for the Jews, for the Christians and for the Muslims, and let's think about a solution that all the three monotheistic faiths will be OK with." Waging peace through sharing the Gospel is not without its challenges. Bitter persecution often faces those proclaiming the same Good News that Jesus shared along these stone streets. "We work toward peace, we work toward bridging the gap between cultures and between the differences in people, but really it's God's grace and only God's grace that will ever appear," a Southern Baptist worker says. Faithful followers of Jesus are preaching His resurrection and reconciling men to God through Christ, just as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5. "The situation in Jerusalem will decide ... the situation in the rest of the world," says Meno Kalisher, a local Messianic pastor. "The reason the Bible says pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:7) is because it's like praying 'Jesus come soon.' And when He comes soon there will be peace in Jerusalem ... and there will be peace in the rest of the world."
Jerusalem: Searching for Peace
As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, He wept. He thought about the people within its walls and said, If you knew this day what would bring you peace. . . (Luke 19:42). He knew within hours He'd be crucified by the very people for whom He wept. Would Jesus […]
Western Christians must ‘run toward Egypt,’ worker says
CAIRO (BP)--The monumental changes taking place in Egypt should be a clarion call for Western Christians to "run toward Egypt" and take advantage of an opportunity decades in the making, said a Christian worker deeply familiar with the country. [[email protected]@150="Instead of stepping back in fear, we need to step in and roll up our sleeves" to reach Egypt, worker says.] "How long have we been asking the church around the world to pray for the [unreached parts of the world]?" Ron Robinson* asked. "I know for 29 years I've been asking American churches, churches in the United Kingdom, Korean Christians to pray for Egypt -- that doors would open" to share the Gospel. "Our prayers are being answered right now.... This is God's hand at work." The resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the major transitions in Egypt present a variety of creative ways for Christians around the world to have a positive impact on the country, Robinson said. But he is concerned the Western church will miss the opportunity out of fear, adding that the "window of opportunity won't last forever." "American Christians -- Western Christians -- are scared to death of this part of the world. So many churches have said, 'We can't come, we can't be there, we're afraid to come physically,'" Robinson said. "But right now we are seeing the answer to our prayers. "So instead of stepping back in fear, we need to step in and roll up our sleeves and get in the fields white unto harvest. "But where are the workers? Our near-culture believers -- our local believers -- are all going to be working. They need others to stand beside them." With an entire economy that needs to be rebuilt, for instance, it presents a "significant opportunity" for Christian businessmen to "come along beside Egyptians and help them and teach them," Robinson said. The major shift now under way in social structures will present another unprecedented opportunity, Robinson said, noting that Egyptians -- like many other members of Arabic cultures -- are very family oriented. Often, entire families occupy a single apartment building. However, because of the faltering economy over the past few decades, Egyptians have become more transient. Even though the social divide between Muslims and Christians has grown, they often wind up as next-door neighbors, rarely speaking to one another, Robinson said. But that changed during the recent political upheaval, when men stood shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors -- regardless of their religion -- to protect their homes from looters. It's another answer to prayer, Robinson said. "This widening gap between Christians and Muslims over the decades is now slamming together," he said. "And it is going to be a great door-opener." Egypt is a pivotal country in the Middle East, Robinson said. With a population of more than 80 million, many Egyptians move to other countries to find employment as everything from day laborers to university professors and business executives. With about 10 percent of the population being at least nominally Christian, there is a significant missionary force just among Egyptian Christians, Robinson believes. "We have a small Baptist convention in Egypt, but it is strong," he said. "We have a number of believers who can't be open about their faith, but they are strong. They need support."
Amidst chaos, Egypt family structures are shaken & in flux
CAIRO (BP)--The long-running social and political upheaval in Egypt, which toppled the presidency of Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, also has shaken family structures, one Christian worker says, noting that the resulting uncertainty presents a "key" evangelism opportunity for the global Christian community. "I think we are going to see more people becoming more open [to exploring ideas] and a lot of people who are going to be seeking spiritual answers," said Brad Carmichael*, a Christian worker who has spent time in Egypt. "I also believe there are going to be a lot of people who will become a lot more dedicated [in their religion], including Islam." Carmichael said that the socioeconomic structure in Egypt -- and primarily in the capital city of Cairo -- has dramatically shifted Egypt in recent years from being family-centric, often with extended families occupying multiple floors of the same high-rise apartment, to separation and isolation from family members. The result is an uncertainty about how to exist in a shifting culture. It raises a lot of questions in their minds, Carmichael said. "Whereas [families being scattered across America] is common to us," Carmichael said, "that's not common to them, so in all these new dynamics people are going to look to something to be an anchor. Where they are going to look is unfortunately very limited, so the posture of the church both from within Egypt and without is going to be very important. This is a key time for us. Some are going to [believe they've found] their answer in Islam. But others are going to look elsewhere." To the Western world the chaos in Egypt and Tunisia may appear to have been a spontaneous event, Carmichael said, but it has been "brewing for some time." The protests in Egypt particularly, according to The Economist magazine, were not initiated by an uneducated mob but by socially connected, urban professionals and university students with few -- if any -- future job prospects.