AndLigh 05-12-184


A Stirring Account of the Church Caught in the Middle East Crossfire


Brother Andrew and Al Janssen

Fleming H. Revell, 2004, 319 pp., ISBN 0-8007-1872-0


This is the story of Brother Andrew’s efforts since 1968 to strengthen the church and bring peace in the Middle East.  He has ministered to suffering Christians and Muslims, attempting to understand and strengthen the Palestinian church, promote reconciliation between Palestinian and Jewish believers, and bring the peace of Jesus to Muslims, including leaders of Hamas.  The heavy-handedness of the Israeli authorities and military and the ongoing rebellion of Palestinian factions provide the ever present background. The book helps readers understand the suffering and plight of Palestinian Christians who have felt ignored by the Western Church. 


Brother Andrew is best known for his work since 1955 of visiting, teaching, and taking Bibles to Christians behind the Iron Curtain.  This work developed into Open Doors International a non-denominational organization working to strengthen the poor and persecuted church around the world.  Brother Andrew, 75 (228), grew up in Holland, living as a boy under German occupation.


“My call was to strengthen the Church in the Middle East.  Could I do it without getting caught in the cross fire of deeply held conviction?  Was it possible for believers to rise above their differences and experience unity to stand against the evil darkness?” (25)


“The Church is also supposed to be a light in the darkness, but it’s hard to fulfill your mission when you are fighting for your very survival.”  “My mission has been to strengthen the church where it struggles for its survival.”  “I want to help Christians escapes their victim mentality.  I wanted to see them trained, ready to advance and get on with the job of winning people to Jesus.” (27)


“That’s why I went to Lebanon during the civil war that raged from 1975 to 1990—to minister to those who minister.” (28)  Hostilities had erupted in Lebanon in 1975 (55)  In 1991 the war was over.  “The PLO was driven out by the Israelis.  The Syrians had invaded and still claimed a presence in the country....  A new fundamentalist Muslim power had emerged under the name of Hezbollah....  What about the Church in Lebanon?  There was no doubt that thousands [one estimate says 100,000] had died.  Many more had fled.  (96)


In 1948 maybe 15 percent of Palestinians were Christians.  (100)


“I ask questions.  I listen.  I learn.  I visit places where it is difficult for the Church.  I want to know how Christians are struggling and if they are suffering.  I want to know their needs.  And where I can, I help.” (109)


I981.  West Bank and Gaza.  Why Islam was on the rise.  1. They have a well-developed eschatology.  They believe in the end they will conquer and rule the world.  2.  The oil embargo of 1973 showed them their power and their immense wealth can be used to spread Islam around the world.  3.  The collapse of morals in the West is seen as a failure of Christianity.  “They will confront the whole world with a total system, and they will pay whatever price it takes, even with their lives.” (116)


“Islam is where the primary conflict will be for the next one hundred years.  And the outcome will decide what this world will look like for the next one thousand years.” (117)


Gaza  December 1987.  The rebellion or intifada was officially under way. (119)

“Palestinians believe they have lived under occupation since 1967.” (168)


“the Oslo Accords, named for the secret negotiations that had occurred in Oslo, Norway, were a breakthrough because Israel formally recognized that the PLO was representing the Palestinian people, and the PLO recognized the right of Israel to exist.”  “Hamas didn’t believe that there should by any negotiations with Israel.  They didn’t believe that Israel should even exist.” (178)  “There was another aspect of Hamas that few people seemed to understand.  It was the sense of shame that had been inflicted on these men.” (179)


“Suddenly I realized that I didn’t have to agree with Muslims to identify with their deep, heartfelt cries to God.  Something melted in me at that moment.  I realized that I genuinely enjoyed being with these men.  I had met them in their dire need and now I sat with them, a small Bible in my hand, ready to offer them hope.”  “They were angry, and I knew their anger was a prison as real as any physical prison in which they’d been locked.  They need to be set free.” (183)


April 6, 1994.  The first time I heard reporters refer to a “suicide bomber.”  “Hamas had decided that they preferred literally dying as opposed to living in submission to a hated conqueror.”  (189)


In a meeting with Ayatollah Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, he told me  “‘Brother Andrew, you Christians have a problem,’ he told me.  You Christians are not following the life of Jesus Christ anymore.’  That was an interesting observation from a fundamentalist leader.  It really hit me hard, so I asked him, ‘What do you think we should do about that?’  He said, ‘You must go back to the Book.’” (196)


“What kind of people does the book produce?” “What kind of people does the Quran produce?  What kind of people does the Bible produce?” (197)


The popular appeal of Hama came from meeting the needs of the people. (218)


Some lessons he had learned:

“There are no terrorists—only people who need Jesus.”  “If I see them as enemies, how can I reach them?  I’ve often said, if you see a terrorist with a gun, get close to him, put your arm around him, and then he can’t shoot you.  As long as we see any person—Muslim, Communist, terrorist—as an enemy, then the love of God cannot flow through us to reach him.  Each of us has a choice.  I can go to terrorists and love them into the kingdom.  And the moment I love them, they are no longer my enemy.  You don’t hate a friend.”  (229)


“Whoever is reachable is winnable.”  “The Hamas are reachable.  Anyone could have gone to see those men at Marj al-Zohour.  I did what Jesus did in His ministry—I met them at their point of need.”  “How else can they know my Jesus?” (229)


“I think we’re on the wrong track with all of our statistics.  We are too results-oriented.  I aim to be destiny-oriented.”  “It’s our job to go.  We don’t judge evangelism by results, certainly not friendship evangelism”  (229)


“Hopes for a permanent peace were dashed in the summer of 2000 (after President Clinton, Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak could not nail down an agreement).  (233)


“The fifty-four students attending Bethlehem Bible College...had paid a high price to learn the Scriptures and prepare for ministry.  How many young people in Holland or America would endure checkpoint searches, gunfire that kept them awake at night, fear for their safety and the safety of their families and continue to study diligently in a noisy house crowded with several families because their homes had been destroyed?” (241)


Mahmoud Zahar, leader of Hamas, “There is no place for a secular state headed by Muslims if it is not controlled by Islam.”  (245)  “It is written in Quran that the people under our rule will come, and we are going to enter the mosque together.  We believe that Israel as a state will be dismantled.  Arabs will unite and establish a Pan-Islamic state without any borders.  We are not speaking about hopes.  We are speaking about reality.” (246)   Re suicide bombers.. “Yes it [suicide] is forbidden.”  “It is not suicide,... It is religious.”  “Nobody in Israel can be described as a civilian.  Nobody!”  “Because every man or woman, at age of seventeen or eighteen, he will be in the army.  It is obligatory.” (247)  “We are deeply suffering from frustration at not having any peaceful channel to achieve our goal.  So we have no option.  We have no alternative.” (247)


Scholars who study conflict between groups observe certain phenomena. 

1.     The division between us and them.  “Each side blames the other, saying that they have lost all moral and ethical standards.  We are able to understand our own group and recognize its good qualities while overlooking our shortcomings....” 

2.     “The failure to see plurality within the other side.  We generalize and stereotype the other, saying things like, ‘They all hate us and want to kill us.’  We are unable to see them as individuals....” 

3.     “The perception by each side that they are victims, and thus they are unable to see themselves as a threat to the other.  If we are victims, then we cannot be the victimizers.  The victims’ mentality causes us to be blind to the others’ pain, aspirations, and needs.” (260)


I had to go to Bible College to learn a “Christian worldview.”  “You need to understand that 98 percent of Palestinians are Muslim.  When we go to school, our teachers are Muslim.  The curriculum is written by Muslims.  The majority of our classmates are Muslim.  Our newspapers are oriented toward Muslims.  So without realizing it, Palestinian/Arab Christians are very much influenced by Islamic thinking and Palestinian movements, and church attendance isn’t enough to overcome that.”  (263)  [In other words, even the Christians grow up with a Muslim worldview.  So, in the U.S. you could substitute the word “secular.” dlm]


“‘I’ve said to God, ‘These people outside have to hear our cry.’  We are crying because we feel that we are alone.  Because we are Arabic people, we feel we are not welcome anywhere.  But the Israeli people, oh, they are welcome.  We feel we are totally rejected, even the Christian.  It’s like we are not human beings.” (a Palestinian Christian, 299)


Because of the ongoing warfare, “We are seeing a whole generation of dysfunctional children developing.”  (300)  “These kids had learned to chant Yasser Arafat’s well-known quote: ‘We will come to Jerusalem if it takes millions of martyrs.’” (301)


The Church in Bethlehem, 2002.  “Five hundred Christian families have left this year.  Many more have applied for emigration.  Within the next year, one-third of the Christians will be gone.  The ministry is hard.”  (305, quoting a pastor)


A Pastor: “I wish the Church would understand the struggles Palestinians have.  We have to deal with Judaism.  We have to deal with Islam.  And we have to deal with who we are, with our nationalism.  Plus we have to deal with Western Christianity.”  (referring to organizations that automatically approve of any actions by Israel over any claims made by Palestinians) (312-13)


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