Baptist Church in Bethlehem Declared Illegitimate By Palestinian Authority

Thursday, March 15, 2012

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (Worthy News)-- Only a week after Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told a conference of evangelical Protestants that his government respected the rights of Christian minorities, his fellow Palestinian officials told Pastor Naim Khoury that his church could no longer operate as a religious institution under the Palestinian Authority.

This latest "bombshell" dropped on Bethlehem's First Baptist by the PA proved to be more destructive than all the bomb attacks it endured during the First Intifada.

"They said that our legitimacy as a church from a governmental point of view is not approved," said Khoury's son Steven, an assistant pastor at First Baptist. "They said they will not recognize any legal paperwork from our church: that includes birth certificates, wedding certificates and death certificates. Children are not even considered to be legitimate if they don’t have recognized paperwork."

The PA's announcement comes after the "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference in which about 600 evangelical Protestants from around the globe gathered to discuss Christian Zionism, a theology some claim adds to the violence in the Middle East by giving credence to Israeli policies.

During the conference's opening ceremony, Minister Fayyad told the assembly that his government respected the rights of Christians; he said they all celebrate the same religious holidays and that PA officials even attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Further, Fayyad assured them that the PA respects all holy places and it will allow unfettered access to them in the areas under its control.

However, Khoury said First Baptist's message of reconciliation between Arabs and Jews conflicts with the hatefull messages sponsored by the PA: Muslim clerics routinely broadcast anti-Semitic rants on PA TV while "peace activists" turn sections of Bethlehem's security barriers into billboards for their fatalistic jihadist propaganda.