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Christ at the Checkpoint: hope in the midst of conflict


The 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint conference, March 5-9 brought together 30 speakers from around the world to address more than 600 participants. “Ron Sider, Sami Awad, Jonathan Kuttab and others spoke like Anabaptists inviting us to love our enemies and to overcome evil with good,” reports Palmer Becker, who attended the conference while on Special Assignment with Mennonite Church Canada.

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Becker noted that one of the unique features of the conference was the meeting of Palestinian pastors from the West Bank with Messianic Christians from Israel. There are currently 50,000 Christian Palestinians living on the West Bank.

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April 6, 2012
-Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, MAN. —At a time when conflict and injustice continue to plague the Holy Land, over 600 people from around the world gathered to focus on hope and options in Bethlehem March 5-9 for the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference.

Palmer Becker, on special assignment for Mennonite Church Canada with Bethlehem Bible College (BBC), was among them.  “[It]…exceeded all expectations!” he wrote in an email update. “The presence of numerous Messianic Jews brought new hope and possibilities to the gathering… [This conference] was a profound attempt to help evangelical, Palestinian and Messianic Christians explore non-violent options for understanding and reconciliation.”

The conference Manifesto clearly outlined a theology of peace and reconciliation, and called for people to recognize God’s image in each other. It denounced any form of racial superiority or exclusive claims to biblical land, cautioned against religious stereotyping, and stated that the “suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israel and Palestinian communities.”    
Becker’s report reflected the successful adoption of those policies throughout the event. He noted that although the pain of the occupation was clearly recognized, a sense of compassion was also extended to the Israelis. “Both Palestinians and Israelis are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome,” he wrote. “They need to be listened to, counselled and helped to a new future.”

Additionally, while some Christians tend to look at the Middle East through the lens of end-time prophecy, this conference focused on the gospel that Jesus proclaimed; that the Kingdom of God is here. “We can live in it today,” Becker said. “We were challenged to be prophets that call for justice with love rather than merely people who dwell on end-time prophecy.”

The conference included a broad spectrum of evangelical believers who met literally at the “checkpoint”. They engaged biblically on issues that have historically divided them such as Christian Zionism, Islamism, justice, non-violence, and reconciliation.

“The practice of non-violence was affirmed again and again,” Becker stated. “Ron Sider, Sami Awad, Jonathan Kuttab and others spoke like Anabaptists inviting us to love our enemies and to overcome evil with good.”

Hope, Becker said, was highlighted throughout the conference. “New relationships are being established between Messianic Jews and Christian Palestinians, and in the growing unity of the church and in the willingness of the church to address injustice in a direct but loving way.”

Becker was visiting BBC to discuss plans for future teaching opportunities, the development of a Masters level Department of Peace Studies program and to attend the Christ at the Checkpoint conference.