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Tried by Fire: Bethlehem ‘s Remnant

By Gary Lane

ICC Note

In spite of persecution there are still Christians in Bethlehem who are holding fast to their belief. Let us remember the remnants of Bethlehem as we celebrate Christmas.

December 17, 2007 Palestine (CBN News) – Each day, children around the world make their way to school. Many are eager to learn how to read and write and become productive members of their societies.

In contrast, in the Palestinian territories, recent kindergarten graduates – most no more than 5 years old – were demonstrating what they had been taught.

The children, dressed in battle fatigues and carrying toy automatic rifles, chanted their replies to the instructor:

“What is your path?” They were asked. “Jihad,” they answered. “What is your most lofty aspiration?” “Death for the sake of allah,” they replied.

Because of the aggressive spread of extremist Islamic ideas like this, thousands of Palestinian Christians have fled Palestinian-controlled areas like Bethlehem .

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Despite this mass exodus, members of the First Baptist Church in Bethlehem have chosen to stay, to be a beacon of light in this community. And for that, some have paid a high price.

That’s because not only do they share their faith with others, they embrace the Old Testament along with the New – the entire Bible as the word of God, including the promises to the Jews.

“We are born-again Christians; we believe in God’s promise with Abraham,” First Baptist Pastor Steve Khoury said. “It’s an everlasting covenant from God, it’s an everlasting covenant with Abraham. He made it with him and his offspring. That is not very well respected in our culture, in our territory that we live in, the Palestinian territory.”

For that, they are persecuted not only by Muslims who see them as Zionist supporters of Israel , but by traditional Christians who embrace a belief known as “replacement theology.”

Replacement theology is the idea that Christians have replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. And like the Muslim majority, many say God gave Israel and the Palestinian territories to them, not the Jews.

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Like a man we’ll call Mukhtar. His family disowned him, called him a snake and threatened to behead him when he became a Christian. He explained what happened one night when several men came and knocked on his door and asked him if he loved Jesus.

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Then they beat him up. Mukhtar was hospitalized with several cracked ribs and vertebrae as a result.

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