(Photo: The Christian Post)
WASHINGTON – An Israeli-Arab pastor with strong ties to the Palestinian territories believes that for Christians to be involved in the Middle East peace process they "need to learn the Bible" and what it says about Jesus' ministry.
Steven Khoury, a Jerusalem-born pastor who is vice president of Holy Land Missions and author of the book Diplomatic Christianity, spoke at a Family Research Council-hosted event that focused on the plight of Palestinian Christians.
"They need to learn the Bible. Go back to study the roots of our faith, which is learning the Bible," said Khoury to The Christian Post.
"I think it's important to promote the message that Christ promoted and that is the message of love, forgiveness, and acceptance."
Khoury also said that he felt that Christians should focus more on positive messages when evangelizing and dealing with controversial issues.
"It bothers me when Christians are taking a stand of being anti-any position. I can disagree with your view, that does not mean I have to be anti-you," said Khoury.
His remarks come at an event titled "A Christian Arab Pastor's Perspective on Persecution and Ministry in the Holy Land."
"Sharing the Gospel in this region of the world comes at a tremendous price," said Tony Perkins, FRC president, commenting on Khoury and his father's churches in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
"Steven has seen church members attacked, discriminated against, loss of income, all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Several believers under his ministry have been martyred, including his own uncle."
Khoury offered those gathered firsthand accounts of persecution. Growing up in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood that had extremists, he said it was not uncommon for church services to be interrupted by individuals carrying stones and Molotov cocktails. Khoury remembers sanctuaries having buckets of water along the aisles at the ready in the event of an attack.
Other problems occasionally came when dealing with government officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization, which would oftentimes deem the government documents connected to his and his father's churches invalid, making it harder for his ministry to operate. Both he and his father have endured beatings from groups of men who oppose their efforts at evangelism.
The event featuring Khoury comes not long after CBS' "60 Minutes" aired a controversial segment on the persecution of Palestinian Christians, which implied that Israel was to blame for the rapid decline of Christian communities in the Holy Land.
During the question-and-answer segment of the event, a Sunni Muslim woman from the Gaza Strip was in the audience and asked what Khoury thought of the businessman Zahi Khouri, who when interviewed by "60 Minutes" claimed that no persecution of Christians was being done by Palestinian groups.
"I cannot speak on [Zahi Khouri's] behalf. All I can speak on is my own personal experiences," said Khoury in response to her question.
"I have experienced persecution, but I have also experienced love as well from both the Muslims and the Jewish people."