The Palestinian Authority has officially granted legal recognition to a regional evangelical group, according to an announcement made at the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly.
For years, the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land had operated in the West Bank, but without official recognition from the government.
Council President Munir Kakish announced at the WEA General Assembly, being held Nov. 7-12 near Jakarta, Indonesia, that the PA had finally granted his organization legal recognition.
In a copy of his speech provided to The Christian Post, Kakish announced that they had been working to get the recognition for 12 years.
“We have been granted our full civil rights as a religious organization,” noted Kakish. “This is a historic moment as other countries nearby do not have recognition.”
“Our hearts are full of thankfulness to God for this new declaration,” he added, also thanking PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Dr. Ramzi Khoury, general director of the Palestinian National Fund, for being granted the recognition.
As a result of the official recognition, the Council can grant marriage licenses, open bank accounts, and legally purchase land registered in their name.
Bishop Efraim Tendero, secretary general of WEA for which the Council is their evangelical alliance in the region, celebrated the recognition of the Council in a speech at the General Assembly.
“We just enjoyed a wonderful success this week when the Palestinian National Authority granted full recognition to our evangelical alliance in Palestine, which they have been seeking for 12 years,” said Tendero.
“Christians all over the world are suffering for their faith. It is gratifying to know that we play a significant role in standing up for them and encouraging them.”
Tendero also stressed the importance of religious freedom advocacy as part of the mission of the WEA, labeling it “one of our most important activities.”
“This advocacy is essential to our goal of enabling the Gospel to be preached throughout the world. We also, as a matter of principle, support religious freedom for all people, not just Christians. In doing so, we gain respect and partners for our efforts,” he continued.
“We have established friendly, ongoing institutional relationships with all major Christian confessions. As part of this work, we have appointed specific, highly knowledgeable individuals, such as our ambassadors to the Vatican, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Churches, and the Russian Orthodox Churches.”
Open Doors USA, a Christian persecution watchdog group, described the Palestinian Territories’ Christian population as being “caught in the middle” between limitations imposed by Israeli authorities and religious hostility from Palestinian Muslims.
“All Christian groups struggle with travel and other limitations imposed by Israeli authorities. Those who convert to Christianity from Islam, however, face the worst Christian persecution,” reported Open Doors.
“In the West Bank they are threatened and put under great pressure, in Gaza their situation is so dangerous that they live their Christian faith in utmost secrecy. Nevertheless, the number of converts from Islam is growing slowly.”