Saturday, July 16, 2011

VOM adds Israel to its Christian Persecution watch

Please pray for protection and freedom of worship in Israel for followers of Jesus! Voice of the Martyrs, an organization helping persecuted Christians around the world, has often covered cases of harassment and even murder in countries like Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, Columbia, and Cuba. In their July 2011 newsletter they have recognized that in Israel, too, both Christians and Messianic Jews have frequently come under attack mainly at the hands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups.

VOM mentions that the Jeruslaem Alliance Church was burned in late October 2010, and that the church was near an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Here is more information, from Ryan Jones' article Jerusalem church fire blamed on Jews, in Israel Today Magazine, November 1, 2010:

"The Jerusalem Alliance Church, part of the global Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA), was built in 1914 on the edge of what is now the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Ten church staff had to be evacuated as the fire began to spread in the basement area of the building just after midnight last Friday. At least three staff members were treated for smoke inhalation at the adjacent Bikur Cholim Hospital. Considering that there were people sleeping in the building, the question of whether or not the fire was intentional became even more pressing.

"Rev. Jack Sara, the pastor of the Alliance Church’s main Arabic-speaking congregation, told Israel Today that police had confirmed to him that the fire was an act of arson. He noted that had Muslims been behind the fire, they most likely would have claimed credit, thereby shifting suspicion to Orthodox Jewish extremists.

"Orthodox attacks on perceived “missionary” elements in Israel are not uncommon, and in fact have escalated in recent years, though they usually target Messianic Jews. That doesn’t mean ultra-Orthodox attacks on Christian churches are unheard of. In 2007, suspected Orthodox extremists set fire to the Narkiss Street Baptist Church in downtown Jerusalem. The same church was burned to the ground by anti-missionary elements 25 years earlier.

"Rev. Sara insisted there were no candles in the room where the fire started, and that renovations on the basement had been completed just a day before, which he said meant the fire could not be blamed on faulty wiring or other electrical problems.

"Rev. Sara was reluctant to point a finger of blame at any particular group, though he said Jewish elements are the most likely culprits, and was concerned that current speculations were being exploited for political purposes. He noted that the day after the fire, Muslim and other Arab press were the first to visit. Naturally, they painted the story as an Israeli assault on Christian freedom of worship in the Holy Land."

(For the complete report, see Ryan Jones' article Jerusalem church fire blamed on Jews, in Israel Today Magazine, November 1, 2010).

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