[Based on interest from churches, mandates from Synod, and current events, we focus on a select number of active issues. While this is not one of our active issues, feel free to browse the resources and information on this page. As need arises, we’ll update this page with new information and resources.]
The indigenous Christian community in the Middle East has stood as an unbroken and enduring witness in the land of Christ’s life and ministry for 2,000 years. However, the Church in the Holy Land--the cradle of our faith--is now in danger of dying out as Christians continue to flee conflict, oppression, and other hardships.
OSJ and the CRC's Middle East Ministry Team encourage the denomination's efforts to stand in active solidarity with Christian communities in the Middle East as they face the challenge of maintaining a faithful Christian presence in increasingly volatile environments and witness to the gospel of grace, justice, and peace.
...love one another as I have loved you. - John 15:12
Cradle of Our Faith
Why do we care about Christians in the Middle East?
Jerusalem Cross The CRC cares deeply about standing with Christian communities around the globe to build the Church of Jesus Christ as we have been commanded. At this time, the Christian communities in the Middle East--the cradle of our faith---are in particularly great need of our solidarity and partnership.
The indigenous Christians in the Middle East have stood as an unbroken and enduring witness in the land of Christ’s life and ministry for 2,000 years.
Although our brothers and sisters--the living stones of the Holy Land--have testified to God’s faithfulness for centuries, the Church is now in danger of dying out.
In just a few short generations, the number of Christians has plummeted by as much as 90 percent in certain areas, with the greatest decline taking place in Iraq and Israel/Palestine. Considerable levels of conflict, as well as other social, political, and economic pressures, have resulted in persecution, death, and other hardships, forcing these Christians to flee their homelands.
The hardships of different Christian communities vary widely: Jordan and Syria, for example, are countries of relative freedom for Christians, while the Church in Bethlehem may not survive another two generations. Yet in all cases, many of the difficulties faced by our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are rooted in systemic injustices, as those in power have failed to protect the rights and freedoms of this vulnerable minority.
Let us respond faithfully to the challenges and opportunities that the Holy Land- the cradle of our faith - provides. We ask that you join us in standing in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East through prayer and advocacy, guided by resources below.
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem: A Service of Prayer for the People of the Middle East. Download the Word document here.
Who Are the Christians in the Middle East? by Betty Jane Bailey and J. Martin Bailey (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids: 2003). Martin Bailey served at various times as editor of the United Church Herald, A.D. magazine, and Connections.
The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East, by Kenneth Cragg (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville: 1991). Bishop Cragg spent 45 years in the Middle East as a professor of philosophy and later as a bishop in the Anglican Archdiocese of Jerusalem. He has written more than 30 books, including The Arab Christian and Palestine: The Prize and Price of Zion.
Churches for Middle-East Peace (CMEP) and Sabeel (Palestinian Christian group) have well-organized links to many of the websites related to peace and justice issues in Israel and Palestine. The Christian Reformed Church is a member of Churches for Middle East Peace.
The CRC and Israel/Palestine
On June 25, 2007, a Christian Reformed Church ad-hoc Middle East study team, under the leadership of the Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action, boarded a Boeing 777 at Newark airport and embarked on a journey that has not yet ended. This report is one result of our experience, but it is not the final product. Click here to read the report.
The CRC is a member of Churches for Middle East Peace. Visit their page to take action »
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 24 public policy offices of national churches and agencies - Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. CMEP began its work in 1984 believing that the policy perspectives and experience in the Middle East of our member churches and organizations should be better known and directly influence U.S. foreign policy.
CMEP’s work is based on the understanding that sound and balanced U.S. policy is crucial to achieving and maintaining just and stable relationships in the Middle East. We support a comprehensive solution that will bring peace and justice to the region.
Middle East Club - Calvin College
The Middle East Club is comprised of members who strive to gain a fuller understanding of the Middle East and its people. Club members will participate in field trips, service projects, film showings and discussions with guest speakers.
Contact: Bert de Vries (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mennonite Central Committee - Middle East
Mennonite Central Committee's Middle East advocacy grows out of 60 years of work in the region. Among MCC's advocacy concerns are:
- a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which allows all to live in peace and security;
- refugee and displaced people's needs;
- religious freedoms;
- respect for human rights;
- highlighting the voices of Iraqis as the U.S. withdraws troops and continues reconstruction;
- diplomacy to resolve differences between the U.S. and Iran.
Christian Peacemaking Teams is a major project of the MCC.
Israel/Palestine Mission Network (PCUSA)
The Israel/Palestine Mission Network encourages congregations and presbytery mission committees, task groups and other entities, toward specific mission goals that will create currents of wider and deeper involvement with Israel/Palestine.
As our mandate calls for, we seek to demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians, especially those who are living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Iraq Partnership Network (RCA & PCUSA)
The Iraq Partnership Network continues the long history of Protestant activities that began in 1830 with European and American Christians living in the areas of the Ottoman Empire known as Mesopotamia. During the twentieth century Presbyterians, together wtih the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ, cooperated in the United Mission in Iraq. The network's vision is to continue this tradition of cooperation with the RCA and UCC as we raise the voices of reformed churches to work toward God's just peace in Iraq.
Center for the Study of Middle East Christianity, Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo
Near East School of Theology
The Near East School of Theology (NEST) is an inter-confessional Protestant Seminary serving the evangelical churches of the Middle East. The primary purpose of the School is to train pastors and church workers for ministry in the churches and other evangelical organizations in the Middle East.
The PCUSA Outreach Foundation
See their missionaries and projects in Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Bethlehem Bible College
Bethlehem Bible College trains an average of 80-100 students each year through Biblical Education and Christian Education programs. Another 30 students are trained annually in the college’s tour guiding and mass media programs. The College seeks to be a blessing to both Christians and Muslims, but especially seeks to strengthen the Christian presence in the Holy Land. At a time when the Holy Land is losing many Christians to emigration, it is crucial to build up the foundation of the church by training young leaders and encouraging them to minister in their own communities. Bethlehem Bible College students are future church leaders in the Holy Land.
Musalaha is an organization dedicated to bringing Israelis and Palestinians together and building relationships that lead to reconciliation. Palestinians and Israelis must build relationships in order to fight the hatred and dehumanization between their cultures.
Musalaha fulfills this vision through many different projects. These include desert encounters, social service projects, conferences, women’s activities, publishing, theological seminars, conflict-resolution seminars and camp experiences. Sabeel
Sabeel seeks reconciliation between peoples of the Holy Land in a vision of peace based on principles for a just peace as defined in the Jerusalem Sabeel Document, which emphasizes from a moral, legal, and theological basis the urgency of ending U.S. support for Israel's illegal military occupation. See also fosna.org/content/mapcards for the dramatically changing map of Palestine since 1948.
Pilgrims of Ibillin
Pilgrims of Ibillin is dedicated to supporting organizations and individuals committed to achieving peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities in the Holy Land.
Lead by world-renowned Palestinian archbishop Elias Chacour, Pilgrims of Ibillin focuses primarily on education, supporting programs and institutions where young people are given outstanding opportunities to study and grow as well-rounded leaders, grounded in a commitment to peacemaking and reconciliation.
Holy Land Trust
Through a commitment to the principles of nonviolence, Holy Land Trust seeks to develop spiritual, pragmatic and strategic approaches that will empower the Palestinian community to resist all forms of oppression, and engage this same community in making the Holy Land what it is supposed to be: a global model and pillar of understanding, respect, justice, equality and peaceful coexistence.
The Diyar Consortium is a group of Lutheran-based, ecumenically-oriented institutions serving the whole Palestinian community "from the womb to the tomb", with an emphasis on children, youth, women & elders. Focusing on community building, development and outreach, Diyar implements contextual and holistic programs that support the civic, cultural, psychosocial, physical, educational, and spiritual wellbeing of the community. Diyar is the umbrella organization to which the Dar al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center, the International Center of Bethlehem (Dar Annadwa), and Dar al- Kalima College belong.
Healing Children of Conflict
Healing Children of Conflict heals families and communities by facilitating medical treatment for children seriously wounded in conflicts involving the United States, and thereby educates others about the root causes of those conflicts. By taking responsibility for healing children with traumatic injuries from war arsenal we seek to spread healing and reconciliation between one community, the war zone, to another—Grand Rapids and West Michigan.
As an Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.
The Church Speaks
Synodical Context: Peace and War
In recent years, the Christian Reformed Church has begun to delve into the complicated issues of justice and peace building the Middle East, based on the recommendations of the 2006 Synodical Report on War and Peace.
The Report on War and Peace stemmed out of the context of war in the Middle East--specifically from the debate over the morality and legality of the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. Following a meeting in London, Ontario of one hundred concerned Christian Reformed members from the United States and Canada, the CRC Board of Trustees agree to publish a pastoral letter to CRC congregations on the war in Iraq. The BOT also recommended that Synod appoint a study committee on the broader issues of war and peace (Agenda for Synod 2006, pp. 417-18).
Synod 2006 adopted more than a dozen recommendations on the role of the Christian Reformed Church--at the denominational, congregational, and individual levels--in affirming the gospel’s call to Christians to be agents of shalom in a broken world. While maintaining a Reformed commitment to Just-War theory, the thrust of the recommendations was to urge CRC members, churches, and agencies to actively participate in building and peace at all levels of society. Synod’s suggested means by which to engage in peace-building included advocacy and participation in the political process, supporting nonviolent means of conflict resolution and the protection of human rights, and opposing the increase of militarization.
The CRC and Peace-building in the Middle East
After receiving the Synodical mandate to support peace-building efforts, the Office of Social Justice organized a study trip to visit the Middle East and assess whether the CRC should increase its involvement in peace and justice work in that region, and specifically in Israel/Palestine. The study team was asked to provide a detailed report, which gave particular attention to potential partnerships with Palestinian and/or Israeli Christian groups and gave specific recommendations for ways the denomination could support efforts to bring peace, reconciliation, and justice in this part of the world.
The Middle East Study Trip report concluded that the major contribution the CRC can make as agencies, institutions, and individuals is to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians – particularly our sisters and brothers in Christ - among our members and friends. Its recommendations were accepted by the BOT on behalf of Synod, and were subsequently implemented:
- OSJ provides a Middle East peace and justice site to disseminate key resources and suggested steps from further action and advocacy.
- The CRC and RCA have an official partnership that includes support for RCA mission work in Israel/Palestine, joint learning trips to the Holy Land, and a joint membership in Churches for Middle East Peace, a US-based advocacy organization.
- CRC affiliated schools and institutions continue to host Arab and Palestinian Christian speakers at major conferences. For example, Archbishop Elias Chacour spoke at both Calvin’s 2010 January Series and Worship Symposium.
- Hope Equals, a youth campaign of Christian Reformed World Missions, helps students engage in peace and reconciliation work in Israel/Palestine. It actualized several important recommendations about opportunities for young people, including that:
- CRWM provides summer mission and volunteer opportunities with Palestinian Christian organizations such as Sabeel, Musalaha, and Holy Land Trust.
- CRWM offers summer internships in Israel/Palestine to Calvin Seminary students so that they can volunteer with one of the aforementioned organizations.
- Service Link includes these organizations and their programs in their area of operation (by assisting CRWM)
The CRC convened the Middle East Ministry Team (MEMT) to oversee the above efforts by providing leadership and direction to the denomination as it works to stand in active solidarity with Christian communities in the Middle East. MEMT includes representatives from various CRC agencies and institutions to coordinate and support the many ways we are striving to live our calling to be agents of shalom and salaam in the Middle East.
Visit the Holy Land
Have you ever desired to visit the Holy Land? Are you interested in the political situation in the Middle East? The CRC and RCA have teamed up to offer three unique, once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences. Find trip overviews below, and download the pdfs to post in your church or share with friends.
Space is limited, so register now!
Light for the World
Join RCA pastor Marlin and Sally Vis on a pilgrimage experience in the Holy Land, visiting holy sites and gaining a better understanding of the current political situation in Israel/Palestine.
The Light for the World tour brings Christians and others to the land of Jesus so they may experience the Biblical and archeological sites and the stories alive in them; so that they might meet the people of the land in their cultural settings; so that they might be eyewitnesses to the complexities in the ongoing conflict in the region; so that they might become advocates for peace and reconciliation in their own homes, churches, communities, and around the world.
Christian Peacemaker Teams Delegation to Israel/Palestine
Conflict in Palestine/Israel has taken center stage in recent months. Despite involvement of the Quartet on the Middle East and overtures from the Obama administration, the situation for many Palestinians living in the West Bank remains grave. Road closures, home invasions, checkpoints and the presence of militant Israeli settlers in Palestinian villages continue to threaten Palestinian human rights. Israel's separation barrier (much of it built on confiscated Palestinian land) not only separates Palestinian communities from each other, but also acts as a barrier between ordinary Israelis and Palestinians seeking to come together for peace. CPT delegation members will gain a perspective on how these issues affect daily life.
Delegates will meet with Palestinian and Israeli human rights representatives and peace workers in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. They will visit Palestinian families whose home and livelihoods are threatened by expanding Israeli settlements. They will travel to the city of Al Khalil (Hebron) and the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills and experience firsthand CPT's work alongside Israeli and Palestinian partners. They will challenge the structural violence of the Occupation through nonviolent public witness.