For Immediate Release
JERUSALEM -- The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) welcomed the Evangelical Local Council of Churches of the Holy Land (ELCCHL) as its newest member alliance on Saturday, December 2, 2006, opening doors to greater fellowship and engagement with evangelicals living in the Middle East.
"This is a historic moment,” said Geoff Tunnicliffe, the International Director of the WEA. “Through this new fellowship, we are reminding evangelicals in Bethlehem that they are not alone but part of a larger family of evangelical Christians around the world.”
The decision to accept the ELCCHL as the 128th alliance was confirmed during the WEA's joint International Council and International Leadership Team meeting in Jerusalem, Israel last week. As part of the 10-day gathering, top WEA leaders traveled to Bethlehem to meet with the city's mayor, fellowship with pastors and students of Bethlehem Bible College, and to hear tear-filled testimonies of Palestinian Christians.
The Rev. Dr. Musa Manuel Abu Ali, the chairman of ELCCHL, warmly welcomed the WEA delegation and thanked them for their encouragement and recognition during their visit to Bethlehem Bible College – the only Evangelical seminary in the Palestinian Territory.
“There are Palestinian Christians living in the Biblical Land, and we are the living stories of faith,” said Rev.Ali. “It is a privilege to have you come to Bethlehem today, because we now know that we are not forgotten.”
Although representing only a tiny fraction of the two percent Christian minority, the Evangelical community has resided peacefully in Palestinian Territory for at least 100 years, sharing their faith among the majority Muslim community.
According to Rev. Ali, this small evangelical community has faced greater hardship in recent years, not only because of persecution, but because the wall surrounding the West Bank and Gaza has drastically cut down on local mobility and foreign tourism – the major source of income for many families living in Bethlehem.
“Due to the political and economic situation in our country, Palestinian Christians are suffering,” said Rev. Ali. “Numerous families have fled to countries away from here, that offer help and shelter.”
“We only ask that you remember us here and that you pray for us,” said Rev. Ali. “Please pray that this light that grew from Bethlehem can continue shining in this land.”
Following the session at Bethlehem Bible College, the WEA leadership traveled to the Bethlehem Manger Square to meet with the two highest officials of the city – the mayor, Dr. Victor Batarseh, and vice mayor, Mr. George Saadeh.
The officials gave consistent calls for prayer, asking the global evangelical population to remember the oft-forgotten Palestinian Christian communities that have historically lived in this land for centuries, and to engage in ministries that bring about justice and compassion for the oppressed.
Upon hearing their plea, Tunnicliffe challenged the WEA global family of all evangelical Christians to “learn about, pray for and stand with our Palestinian brothers and sisters as they seek to live out there faith in increasingly difficult and challenging circumstances.”
The WEA International Council and International Leadership Team meeting was held in Jerusalem, Israel from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6, 2006. On Dec. 5, the WEA leadership team met with Benjamin Elom, the interim chair of the Christian Allied Caucus in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), and discussed the relationship between Evangelicals and the state of Israel.
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World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)
World Evangelical Alliance is made up of 127 national evangelical alliances located in 7 regions and 104 associate member organizations. The vision of WEA is to extend the Kingdom of God by making disciples of all nations and by Christ-centered transformation within society. WEA exists to foster Christian unity, to provide an identity, voice and platform for the 420 million evangelical Christians worldwide.
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