Sunday, December 01, 2013

Anti-Israel Activist Speaks at Open Doors Brazil


Anti-Israel Activist Speaks at Open Doors Brazil

“Bishara Awad is interestingly silent about Muslim persecution of Christians in Palestine. There were large numbers of Christians in Palestine just a few decades ago, but they are disappearing. Will Awad say that the culprit is ‘Israeli occupation’?”

By Julio Severo
In early May 2013, Palestinian Christian author Walid Shoebat warned that “Jesus at the Check Point” would soon be speaking at a church near you. “Jesus at the Check Point,” which is a “Christian” organization with a socialist twist, is touring the United States to muster support to alleviate “Christian Persecution.”
According to Shoebat, “The main dynamo and sponsoring agent of these tours is Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem, Israel.”
While the warning of Shoebat, published on WND last May, was being directed to Americans, Bishawa Awad, founder and president emeritus of Bethlehem Bible College, was visiting churches in Brazil, including as a keynote speaker in a major conference commemorating the 35th anniversary of Open Doors Brazil in the same month of May.

Brazilian Leader Shaken by Awad Speech

He was also a keynote speaker at a major SEPAL meeting of progressive ministers in Brazil. The ministers’ meeting commemorated the 50th anniversary of SEPAL, a Brazilian organization which trains and empowers Brazilian evangelical leaders and ministers. Ezion Geber, who attended it, told that after hearing Awad’s speech he would have to abandon many paradigms. He said (as recorded originally here in his blog in Portuguese: http://archive.is/rRsPM),
Dr. Bishara Awad came from Bethlehem, in the West Bank. He is a Palestinian, Christian, founder and director of Bethlehem Bible College. He began his speech on Psalm 11:3: “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” (NKJV) He spoke about his story… his family. His father died in the 1948 war, and his mother, with her children, was sheltered by Muslims, in Jerusalem. He spoke about Israelis occupying the land… Just as Romans did in the past… Today, Jews are the ‘oppressors.’”
I thought in my paradigms which made me see Palestinians as hindrances for Israel. I thought in the education that indoctrinates me to see a triumphant Israel… and I read the biographies of the founders of Israel, as Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Ythzak Rabin… and I was moved by each victory of Israel in the wars in 1948, of Sinai in 1956, the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Now I am hearing a Palestinian Christian talking about the love of Jesus…
It is a big clash, I have now many paradigms to renounce… God help me…
Bishara Awad, Ezion Geber and Marco Cruz of Open Doors Brazil
King David, the beloved author of the Psalms (most of them, at least), was from Bethlehem. I can hardly imagine David returning today and be told by Awad, “Bethlehem is under occupation.”
David asks, “Who is occupying my city?”
Awad’s answer: “Your Jewish people, of course!”

Clash Between Awad and James Dobson

Awad is better known for attacking Dr. James Dobson in 2002. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is a prominent pro-family and pro-Israel Christian leader. He had denounced Palestinian activist Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and her speech in an American college. Dobson denounced:
1. Ashrawi had association with Yassir Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
2. Feminist Mother Jones magazine has described Ashrawi as “a wealthy, Christian, feminist, ex-Marxist.”
3. Dr. Ashrawi’s non-profit organization, MIFTAH, received $850,000.00 a year directly from Yassir Arafat.
4. In 1998, Ashrawi told Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, an official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, that the Holocaust is “a deceitful myth which the Jews have labeled ‘the Holocaust’ and have exploited to get sympathy.”
Dr. James Dobson
Dobson was completely correct in his denunciation, because Arafat was a prominent Islamic terrorist trained and supported by the defunct Soviet Union. For such necessary denunciation, Bishara Awad chastised him publicly, saying that Dobson was “an instrument of hate and division” and that Dobson’s denunciation was tantamount to “the hate propaganda and deceitful ways of the enemy of righteousness.” American liberals supported Awad’s complaint against Dobson.
What did Awad want in Brazil?

Brazilian Government: Pro-Palestinian Occupation of the Promised Land

If his mission was, among other things, convert people and institutions to a pro-Palestininan stance, Awad had no need to meet representatives from the Brazilian government, which blatantly supports Palestinians and their cause of occupation of the Promised Land. In 2010, the socialist Lula administration donated more than 10,000,000.00 dollars to the Palestinian Authority.
The Lula administration made Brazil one of the first nations in the world to recognize “Palestine” as a state — a state occupying the land God promised to Jews, not to other peoples.
And under this intense political climate of support for Palestine, Brazil hosted last year the world’s biggest pro-Palestine event, officially supported by major liberal theological figures and the World Council of Churches, an anti-Israel organization supported by the defunct Soviet Union.
Leonardo Boff, the most prominent Liberation Theology advocate in Brazil, showed the same support for the event. He said, “It is our duty to be on the side of the Palestinians.”
Why was Bishara Awad in SEPAL, which represents many Brazilian churches, when his cause is largely supported by powerful socialists in the Brazilian government and media? Brazilian churches have been the last pro-Israel bastion in face of the massive leftist pro-Palestine forces in the secular society in Brazil. Does Awad align Brazilian churches with these forces?

Anti-Israel Boycotts

Was Awad’s tour in Brazil a beachhead for “Jesus at the Check Point”? “Jesus at the Check Point” participants (secular and Christian socialists) have one consensus: Israel should be boycotted because Palestinians are victims and Bethlehem is under Jewish occupation!
Speakers at “Christ at the Checkpoint” conferences have called for boycotts against Israel for a long time. On April 1, 1933, just one week after taking power in Germany, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered a boycott of Jewish shops, banks, and businesses.
Over the past few years a number of Reformed denominations and ecumenical organizations have issued statements condemning the alleged Israeli “occupation” of Bethlehem and other lands historically and biblically belonging to Jews, and have chosen either to support campaigns to boycott Israeli goods and divest from multinational companies operating within Israel, and/or to denounce support to Israel as a “heresy.”
In a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams (June 2011), Naim Ateek, whose Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (‘Sabeel’) was represented at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, described Jewish and Christian Zionists as “a greater threat to us [Arab Christians] than the extremist Islamists.” (Paul Wilkinson, Church at Christ’s Checkpoint, p. 5.)
This stance is especially espoused by the World Council of Churches.
The motto of “Jesus at the Check Point” is “non-violent resistance against the Israeli Zionist occupation.” “Zionism is the obstacle to peace,” they write, and they want to “educate evangelical Christians” to “understand the Bible from a Palestinian liberation theology perspective,” which openly supports a “divided state” as the solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Its “Christ at the CheckPoint,” held March 2012, was led by Bishara Awad and his family. Several Christian groups expressed opposition to this conference. According to the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Jürgen Bühler, executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), said in a statement ahead of the event that the conference’s theological stance “can easily lend itself to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda, as some of the Checkpoint speakers have proven in the past.”
Jerusalem Post reports that “Among the speakers was Rev. Stephen Sizer, a British minister who has spoken out harshly against Israel and met with radical Muslims, including Hezbollah.” Stephen Sizer is not alone in championing the cause of Palestinian liberation theology throughout the Muslim world. Two of his closest friends and colleagues within the movement are Gary Burge and Donald Wagner, both of whom are ordained ministers within the Presbyterian Church (USA), the world’s biggest pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality Presbyterian denomination, which has called for boycotts against Israel. They have been very active in the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue, and the work of Sizer has received praise from Tony Campolo, Hank Hanegraaff and the late John Stott. (“Prophets Who Prophesy Lies In My Name”, Christian Palestinianism and the anti-Israel Crusade, pages 14,16)
In spite that “Jesus at the CheckPoint” is involved in the Palestinian liberation theology, Awad freely preached his “Palestinian” gospel in several Brazilian churches last May.

A Socialist Speaker at Open Doors Brazil

His most important opportunity in Brazil was to speak in the 35th anniversary of Open Doors Brazil. Jeff Taylor, president of Open Doors International, was also one of the speakers.
I am not surprised at a socialist Palestinian Protestant speaking at Open Doors Brazil. Ariovaldo Ramos, one of the most prominent socialist evangelical leaders in Brazil, has already spoken in some Open Doors events. Ramos has praised socialist dictator Hugo Chavez and he is an influential Brazilian advocate of the Theology of Integral Mission, an evangelicalized version of the Marxist Liberation Theology. (You can find more information on it by downloading my free e-book here: http://bit.ly/15AJmMC)
Ariovaldo Ramos
Ramos’s socialist profile was never a hindrance for him to minister at Open Doors Brazil in the administration of former Secretary General Carlos Alfredo de Sousa, where Ramos delivered speeches, devotionals and even wrote articles in the Open Doors website.
One year ago, I exposed an article by Open Doors Brazil supporting Marxism revolutions as a solution to destroy persecution against Christians in Muslim nations. I challenged them to correct it and show the reality: Marxism and Islam are mostly behind Christian persecution. They refused it. Their secretary general was eventually removed.

Talking to the Current Open Doors Brazil Secretary-General

Talking days ago by phone to Marco Cruz, the new Secretary-General of Open Doors Brazil, he has made it clear that he is not familiar with the Palestinian Liberation Theology. About the Awad case, he said that his visit as a key-note speaker at Open Doors Brazil had been scheduled several months earlier, during the administration of the former Secretary-General. The main responsible for this schedule was Open Doors International.
I explained to him the involvements of Awad and that everything he represents is a deviation of the Open Doors’ mission, which is to help the persecuted church. Cruz made it clear to me that in his administration, as far as it is possible for him the focus of Open Doors Brazil will be Jesus and the persecuted church. This is more encouraging news. Yet, what about Open Doors International?

Has Open Doors International Lost Its First Love?

In 2004, Awad said, “Brother Andrew comes to see us at least two or three times a year, and he was our keynote speaker at the graduation and the 25th anniversary of the Bethlehem Bible College of this year. He is a close friend.”
I find strange that Open Doors International, which began its ministry by helping Christians persecuted by Marxists, now is willing to have an alliance with socialist “Christians,” including Bishara Awad.

Muslim Persecution of Christians

Awad is interestingly silent about Muslim persecution of Christians in Palestine. There were large numbers of Christians in Palestine just a few decades ago, but they are disappearing. Will Awad say that the culprit is “Israeli occupation”?
According to CBN News, the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 shows persecution against Christians and Jews is on the rise, especially in Muslim countries.
Christians are fleeing Palestine, for example, not because of “Israeli occupation,” as Awad would have us believe. Christians fleeing Muslim nations is a universal trend, because of Muslim violence.
Why would this reality be different in Palestine, which is mostly Muslim today? Why would radical Muslims be willing to tolerate Awad and his family? Surely, they are helpful for anti-Israel propaganda and disinformation among Christians.

Professors at Presbyterian University Mackenzie

This propaganda went unchallenged in Brazil. Open Doors Brazil opened many doors for Awad in Brazil. Awad spoke also at an “apologetics meeting” in the Trinity Christian Church, led by Paulo Romeiro, who is a professor in the Presbyterian University Mackenzie in São Paulo, Brazil.
Romeiro, in his turn, opened his online TV show for Awad to impart his Palestinian vision to Brazilians. According to a Brazilian witness, Awad told his Brazilian audience that the source of oppression against Palestinian Christians is Israel — the same language he used in SEPAL.
Romeiro is a former director of the Christian Research Institute in Brazil. This institute was connected and founded by its American counterpart, Christian Research Institute, led by Hank Hanegraaff. Might Romeiro have been influenced by Hanegraaff, who considered support for Israel a “heresy”?
Just because he is a professor at Mackenzie, you cannot say that Romeiro has all of these leftist proclivities. But some of his Mackenzie friends have, especially Ricardo Bitun, a professor whose students in this prominent Brazilian Presbyterian university say that he teaches that “Liberation Theology can change the church.”
Coincidently or not, on the called “Palestinian cause” Liberation Theology and the Theology of Integral Mission have stances similar to Awad’s: Israel is the oppressor. Ricardo Bitun was one of the main speakers at the recent “Conferência Missão na Íntegra” (Integral Mission Conference), the biggest event advocating the Theology of Integral Mission in Brazil.
In its turn, Mackenzie hosted the biggest Protestant youth meeting in Brazil last November, under the leadership of Ariovaldo Ramos and other leaders of the Theology of Integral Mission. It was the biggest leftist Protestant youth event in Brazil.
Mackenzie has also been denounced in my blog for its rabid cessationists. See my article A Charismatic Response to “The Growing Crisis Behind Brazil’s Evangelical Success Story.”

Palestinian Liberation Theology

So I would not be surprised at apologists serving interests of anti-Israel propaganda. Nowadays, most Brazilian apologists have served, in a way or another, socialist causes. Liberation theology, and its evangelicalized version Theology of Integral Mission, has been the main inspiration for many Brazilian Protestant leaders and publications taking a stance against Israel to support a Palestinian occupation of the Promised Land.
Liberation theology has marred the Gospel and God’s plan for the Jewish people and their Promised Land.
In Israel, the same theology, embraced by Palestinian Protestants, has provoked the same havoc. Palestinian liberation theology purportedly focuses on the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, misrepresenting Him as a Palestinian living under occupation.
Identifying Jesus as “a Palestinian living under an occupation” has become normative for Christian Palestinianists, and a powerful propaganda weapon in their anti-Israel crusade. This identification was most evident in the Easter message which Naim Ateek preached in Jerusalem on April 9, 2001:
“Here in Palestine Jesus is again walking the via dolorosa. Jesus is the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint, the woman trying to get through to the hospital for treatment, the young man whose dignity is trampled, the young student who cannot get to the university to study, the unemployed father who needs to find bread to feed his family … In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.” (“Prophets Who Prophesy Lies In My Name”, Christian Palestinianism and the anti-Israel Crusade, page 7.)
But Palestinian liberation theology “Christians” are not alone in their mission to misrepresent Jesus Christ. Palestinian Muslims are their powerful allies. According to a Palestinian Media Watch article of December 24, 2010, “One of the ways the Palestinian Authority attempts to create a Palestinian history is to deny the Judean/Jewish nationality of Jesus, and misrepresent him as a ‘Palestinian.’” (“Prophets Who Prophesy Lies In My Name”, Christian Palestinianism and the anti-Israel Crusade, page 8.)
In fact, as Dr. James Dobson denounced, Palestinian “Christian” feminist Hanan Ashrawi, through her group MIFTAH, received $850,000.00 a year directly from Yassir Arafat. Muslims are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices do advance their anti-Israel propaganda, even by funding “Christians,” even by supporting Palestinian gay activists, provided that they fulfil their mission of anti-Israel propaganda.

Only “Spiritual Israel” Entitled to the Promised Land?

Why would Open Doors be willing to have Awad, an ally of Palestinian liberation theology advocates, as the key note speaker in its most important conference in Brazil? Does not Open Doors believe that the Jewish people are entitled to their Promised Land?
According to WND, Open Doors subscribes to Calvinist author and pastor John Piper’s views of Israel. Piper’s views are as follows:
The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the land.
So Open Doors has a “spiritualized” answer for its stance not supporting the modern state of Israel and the Jewish claim over the Promised Land. But at the same time, Open Doors has no hard time supporting Bishara Awad, who has a strange alliance with Palestinian liberation theologians and Muslims to defend a divided Promised Land. This alliance is necessary, because Bethlehem is under occupation by their common enemy: Israel.
I think that if David were supernaturally brought to life again, he would be able to judge this case. I am unable to see him siding with Muslims or Palestinian liberation theologians. This theology just uses the true Gospel as a platform for Marxism and its deceitful “liberation.”
Of course, David would cry to God over the condition of modern Jews, but never betray his posterity by delivering the Promised Land to Muslims and liberation theologians.
Yet, we have no David to decide the case. What about a truly spiritualized answer? If, as Piper and other Calvinists see it, the true Israel is the spiritual Israel, then are we, the spiritual Israel, under the responsibility to occupy Israel and expel Muslims and the heretical liberation theology “Christians” from the Promised Land?
I fear that both solutions — David’s and the spiritualized answer — would not satisfy Awad and Open Doors.
For the sake of the truly persecuted Christians, Open Doors would be wise to not get involved in Awad’s liberation theology sympathies and messes and a cultural and spiritual war that it is unable understand.
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