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Powell hears suicide bomber detonate; evangelicals seek 1 million in prayer

JERUSALEM (BP)–A suicide bomber detonated herself within earshot of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Jerusalem April 12, killing at least four people and wounding dozens of others.

The attack came as an American evangelist, Mike Evans, who heads the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship, was mounting an effort supported by numerous evangelical leaders to enlist 1 million people for a “Jerusalem Prayer Team.” Organizers say the prayer effort is in the tradition of the late Corrie ten Boom’s childhood family in Holland, who prayed for the peace of Jerusalem and gave shelter to Jewish people before the family members themselves were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps.

Powell was in Jerusalem at the outset of a mission to seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians at war over the onslaught of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Powell was several streets away (about a kilometer) from a popular Jerusalem open-air market filled with pre-Sabbath shoppers when the woman bomber detonated an explosive vest she was wearing around 4:15 p.m., according to a Jerusalem Post report.

Powell heard the explosion as he was being driven to a helicopter near the the Knesset, the nation’s parliament, with Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who reportedly queried Powell, “Do you see what we have to deal with?” the Post reported.

Powell’s helicopter then circled over the site for a short time, the Post reported, before moving on.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, meanwhile, addressed by cell phone an audience of about 5,000 people in Cairo, Egypt, April 11 attending a “National Conference for the Support of the Palestinian People,” The Post reported.

Arafat accused Israeli forces of a “crime” for surrounding Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity where an estimated 200 or more Palestinian gunmen are holed up, along with 40 or more clergy and several nuns.

“Palestinian people will die in defending ourselves” against what he alleged are Israeli attacks on Palestinian territories and what Israel has described as a necessary military offensive against a Palestinian infrastructure that has supported a wave of suicide bombs across the nation.

“The [Israeli] occupation is going beyond limits, not only against … our children, our women … [but] against our Christian and Muslim sanctuaries,” Arafat was quoted by The Post as saying.

“The aggression that continues today against the Church of the Nativity … is a crime … [and] we will continue to defend these churches regardless of anybody. We will die in defending ourselves,” Arafat said to loud applause.

Arafat’s description of the standoff in Bethlehem’s Manger Square runs counter to the view of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, whose executive director, Malcolm Hedding, said April 4 it “is a premeditated offence by militant outlaws who know it is a place central to our faith … .” An ICEJ statement charged that the Palestinian gunmen were using “innocent civilians as human shields” and that the Palestine Liberation Organization had carried out “a similar tactic” during the war in Lebanon, where the ICEJ said “the PLO systematically defiled and destroyed churches and other Christian properties.”

During the April 11 gathering in Cairo, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, assured Arafat, “All our people are with you. We ask God that he saves you from the situation you are in … . We don’t want [Arafat] a martyr, we want him a lasting [Palestinian] symbol,” The Post reported.

Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of the al-Azhar institute, the highest Islamic authority in Egypt, was quoted as saying that Egypt supports its “brothers in Palestine [who] are facing [Israeli] aggression with strength, steadfastness and strong will.”

Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Shaath addressed the crowd, saying that “Palestine suffers in all its sacred places … but we fight in Palestine despite the difficulties. We will fight for peace in Jerusalem.”

Peace in Jerusalem is exactly what evangelist Mike Evans is hoping Christians will pray for through a new “Jerusalem Prayer Team.”

“The goal of The Jerusalem Prayer Team is to enlist 1 million people in America to pray daily and 100,000 houses of worship to pray weekly for the peace of Jerusalem,” according to the initiative’s website at www.jerusalemprayerteam.org.

Evans, a Dallas-area evangelist, is executive director of the Corrie ten Boom Fellowship, which is sponsoring the prayer initiative, and president of the Corrie ten Boom Foundation in Holland.

Supporters of the prayer effort include Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church; Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas; and various well-known personalities in evangelical life including Tim LaHaye, John Maxwell, E.V. Hill, Pat Boone and Pat Robertson.

An individual or church can join The Jerusalem Prayer Team by free registration through the website, and participants will receive periodic updates about the effort.

The website notes that “Israel welcomes this effort, however they did not start it or fund it. The Jerusalem Prayer Team gains no financial support from any government or any agency of the government. … It holds no affiliation with any political or religious organizations.”

Prayer for the peace of Jerusalem is needed, the website states, because “the Scriptures tell us to in Psalm 122:6. Also, the Great Commission proclaims that we would be a witness unto [Jesus] in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Praying for peace and protection for those who are experiencing the same type of terror that was experienced in America on September 11th is a way to be a witness.”

In 1844, the ten Boom family in Haarlem, Holland, started a weekly prayer meeting at their home and clock shop for the Jewish people after a moving worship service in a Dutch Reformed church. Willem ten Boom was stirred to pray for the Jewish people, so he started the weekly time of prayer, where his family and others who stopped by prayed specifically for the peace of Jerusalem as noted in Psalm 122:6. The meetings took place every week for 100 years, until Feb. 28, 1944, when Nazi soldiers came to the house and took away several family members for helping local Jews and hiding them in a secret room in the house. On that day, the family was together for a Bible study and prayer meeting.

Corrie ten Boom’s 84-year-old father Casper and her sister Betsie died in concentration camps, but Corrie survived and, at age 53, began a ministry that became international in scope through her book, “The Hiding Place” and a Billy Graham World Wide Pictures motion picture with the same name. Corrie ten Boom died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983.