Palestinian Evangelical pastor released 40 days after being arrested for meeting Israeli leader

Pastor Johnny Shahwan
Pastor Johnny Shahwan | DMG Christian Ministry

A Palestinian judge has released Evangelical pastor Johnny Shahwan from Bethlehem, about 40 days after he was arrested for allegedly allowing a former member of Israel’s parliament and rabbi to visit his ministry, according to reports.

Palestinian authorities released Pastor Johnny Shahwan, who was accused of promoting normalization with the “Zionist entity” and welcoming an “extremist Zionist settler,” on Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Pastor Shahwan was arrested on March 2 and his ministry, Beit Al-Liqa, or House of Encounter, was shut down for allegedly meeting with Yehudah Glick, an Israeli politician from the Likud Party and rabbi.

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The Beit Al-Liqa ministry, which is based in the town of Beit Jala just outside Bethlehem, released a statement after the pastor’s arrest. It said it “hosted a group of German tourists and at the end of the meeting with Shahwan, an unidentified person at the time, Glick, “suddenly walked in and asked to take a ‘selfie’ with Shahwan and the tourists.”

It clarified, “We were not aware of the presence of this extremist Zionist person, and he was not part of the group’s itinerary.”

The day after the pastor’s arrest, unidentified gunmen fired several shots at the ministry’s building, according to the Post, which added that no one was hurt.

The ministry also affirmed its “commitment as a Palestinian national Christian institution to all Palestinians and opposition to normalization [with Israel].” It also denounced the Jews living in the West Bank as “criminals,” the Post said.

Shahwan’s release comes about a week after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was briefed on his plight, All Arab News said, adding that Abbas asked his attorney general and security services to review the case, indicating that he wanted to see the pastor released.

Earlier, the Post had commented, “Given the widespread campaign of incitement against Shahwan on social media, it would probably be safer for him to remain in a Palestinian prison than to be released to his home in the Bethlehem area. There, he could be attacked by the extremists who consider him a traitor for meeting with an Israeli Jew.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian rioters vandalized Joseph’s Tomb during clashes with Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday, CBN News reported.

“Dozens of Palestinian rioters in a frenzy of destruction simply vandalized a holy place for us, the Jews,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was quoted as saying. “They shattered the headstone over the tomb and set fire to rooms in the complex; I have seen the shocking pictures.”

“We will not tolerate such an attack on a place that is holy for us, on the eve of Passover, and will reach the rioters. Of course, we will see to the rebuilding of what has been destroyed, just as we always do,” he added.

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