Middle-East Conflict: Baptists Underscore the Right of Israel to Exist
P r a g u e (EBPS) – The Christian church should play a key role in resolving the Middle-East conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It should be “an agent of healing rather than a source of division”. This longing was expressed in a prayer concern called the “Prague Declaration” passed at an international conference entitled “Christian Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”. Both Arab Christians and Messianic Jews were among the participants from 20 countries attending the conference on the Prague campus of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS). The declaration also states that Christians “regret the Church’s historic role in anti-Semitism”. “We affirm the right of the State of Israel to exist, free from the threat of annihilation.” The statement also acknowledges “with deep sorrow Christian indifference to and ignorance of Palestinian suffering. We affirm the right of Palestinian self-determination.”
It was also reported at the conference that an increasing number of Jews “are coming to know their Messiah” and that Christian Arabs are engaged in a “vibrant witness”. The declaration calls on Baptists throughout the globe to respond to the need apparent above all in local Messianic Jew and Arab Christian congregations. In public assertions on the Middle-Eastern conflict, Western Christians should “act with great sensitivity” and “abstain from statements that could endanger local believers or discredit their witness”.
One of the conference’s organisers, the IBTS lecturer Dr. Peter Penner (Prague), expressed to EBPS the conviction that participants had experienced the peace of Christ in a concrete fashion: “We were aware that it was the Lord who was leading our discussions.” Overcoming initial scepticism and passing a closing declaration was not otherwise to be explained. IBTS Rector Keith Jones stated: “The Israel-Palestine situation is one of the most intractable for the world today and generally we hear only about the difficulty of dialogue.” He expressed delight that the IBTS-initiated conference had made it possible to take a step towards reconciliation. Along with Penner, the sessions had been organised by the US-American theologian and IBTS lecturer Dr. Wesley H. Brown.