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  • Embroidered Picture (England), 17th century -The story of Hagar with figures of Hagar and Ishmael both appearing twice, Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac once | Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Cooper-Hewitt
Teachings

Why Israel in Prophetic Perspective – Islam, Christians and Israel (Part 1 of 2)

Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer - 28 November 2023

Allah.
The key question to answer when one talks about Jews, Christians and Muslims is: are Muslims worshipping the same God that Israel worships, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Is Allah that God? By no means, is my conviction.

First of all: inscribed on the Dome of the Rock (also known as the Mosque of Omar) are quotations from the Koran, one of which reads, “Allah has no son.” Whereas the Scriptures teach us that the Father gave His only begotten (and beloved) Son so that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life – John 3:16: “…For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (only begotten Son, KJV), that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life…” The Koran states that Allah is one, and that there is neither an eternal Son nor a Holy Spirit who are one in God.

Secondly: hatred of the Jews – God’s firstborn son! – is regularly preached in the Mosque of Omar and the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the second Islamic shrine on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem), and throughout the whole Muslim world. The Al-Aqsa brigades, who use suicide bombers to kill as many Jews as possible, name themselves after this mosque. Since 9/11 2001 till April 2004 this Muslim-terrorism launched 399 attacks worldwide and killed 7085 people, most of them in Israel. Muslim terrorist groups fight in the former Soviet Republics and in the Far East, Africa, etc. Thousands of Christians die by murderous Muslim attacks.

Are we talking about the same God? Allah denies that he has a Son and hatred is preached against the Jews and Christians. Fundamentalist groups among his followers, such as Hamas, the Hezbollah and the Iranian ayatollah’s, preach hatred against the Jews and teach their children to become martyrs for Allah by killing as many Jews as possible in suicide-murder attacks. And promise them Paradise when they sacrifice themselves in this ‘jihad’.

But the Bible clearly teaches that the One and only God is the Father of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, and that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that Israel is His beloved first-born Son – Exodus 4:22-23.

One day a former Palestinian terrorist told me a story he had heard from a fellow Palestinian terrorist. This man was suspected by the other PLO-terrorist that he was a secret informer of the IDF, the Israeli Defence Force. They decided to beat him to death, and they did. But he was not dead. Lying on the ground unconsciously he had a nearly dead experience. He said: ‘I was in the midst of flames. And then I saw my parents and my grandparents, also in the midst of flames. And they shouted at me: Lies! It is all lies that they told us and made us believe! Go back and read the Good Book (meaning the Bible)!’ He came to himself, managed to get away, and read the ‘Good Book’. Now he is a Christian living in the USA, talking openly about what’s going on in these terrorist groups. He said: ‘I was in hell, not in Paradise.’

Again, can Allah be the same as the God of the Bible?

Hamas has clearly stated that “on Saturday (the Sabbath) we will destroy the Jews and on Sunday the Christians.” Some say: ‘Oh, but those groups are extremists, Islamic fundamentalists, but many Islamic people are peace loving and very agreeable and hospitable people! Being born in an Islamic home and family one is taught what to believe and what not. Aren’t they serving the same God as we do, only in a different way? Ultimately there is only one God, isn’t there?

When this were true, how come we have never seen huge demonstrations against these ‘extremists’ in the Middle East or in other parts of the huge Islamic Empire, stretching from Indonesia, through Asia, the former Soviet Republics, huge parts of Africa, deeply penetrated in Europe and even the USA? Why have not the moderate Islamic masses – when they are out there and when Islam is a religion of peace, as many of them claim – taken to the streets? Not even once! Is it because deep down in their hearts many Muslims think: they are the true Muslims?

Even in Holland, third generation young Muslim immigrants, well educated, speaking fluently Dutch, hardly ever visiting a mosque because they consider themselves to be secularized Muslims, well integrated into Dutch society, having good jobs and earning a lot of money, enjoying the life of freedom in the Dutch open and tolerant society, rejoiced openly when the twin-towers in New York were hit on 9/11 and nearly 3000 innocent people were killed. Why? Is it because, however vague and subconscious, the spirit of Islam is still in them?

Of course there are many Muslims who, because of their upbringing, honestly believe that Allah is the one and only true God and accordingly try to serve him with their whole heart. But a tree will be known by its fruits.

“When you want to be sure whether the God you are serving is the One and only true God you can check that”

An old Jewish lady once told me: “I don’t care under what circumstances or in what religion you were born. You could not help that. It was not your choice. Whether you were born in a Hindu family, or a Muslim one, or a Jewish one, or a Christian one, or raised in the Confucianism of China, or in the Shintoism of Japan, you were not asked whether you approved or not. But when you came at a certain age and started to think for yourself and were able to make your decisions about your faith and your lifestyle and became a religious person yourself, from that moment on you were responsible yourself. So when you want to be sure whether the God you are serving is the One and only true God you can check that. Because when you know and serve the One and only true God, there will be love in your heart, not hatred, because God is love. You will love God, and your fellow human beings as yourself.”

I believe this is true. Whatever religion you belong to, this will be the case: when one really knows the One and only God and have Him in one’s heart, there will be love in your heart.

Christians should be aware of this too, of course. When one reads about the hatred preached by the Church Fathers, by the medieval Church, by Luther and others, against Jews and Muslims, one’s heart is chilled, and one realizes that this cannot be from God, this cannot be from Jesus Christ, but must come from evil sources, cloaked in Christian garments! Christians should bring God’s love in Jesus to everybody, in words and – even more important – deeds, no matter in what walk of life other people are. Be they Jew, nominally Christian, Muslim, atheist, communist, humanist or whatever. Christians should never forget that Jesus loves every human being. That He gave His life for us on the cross, in order that we could have life everlasting. He loves Arabs and Palestinians and Jews and Muslims and heathens/gentiles as much as He loves you and me.

Jihad = Holy War
Historically, Islam spread by fire and by the sword. Twice, Christian Europe was nearly overrun. The first time was in the Middle Ages when the Islamic advance was halted in the Pyrenees, the mountains between France and Spain, by the Christian knights of Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne: 732 AD at Tours. The second time was in the sixteenth century, when an Islamic army reached the gates of Vienna, 1683 AD. Today, for the time being, Islam spreads by peaceful immigration of Islamic workers who keep the economy of Europe and other parts of the world going. Being a minority they will obey the laws of the country in which they are living. As soon as they become a majority, things rapidly change.

I never forget this personal experience, about 25 years ago. In those days I still was a producer of radio- and television programs at a Dutch Christian network. We had produced a documentary about the genocide that the Muslim Turks afflicted to the Christian Armenians between 1895-1918. The Armenians are the oldest nation on earth who adopted officially Christianity as their religion, in 301 AD. Between 1.5 and 2.5 million Armenians were slaughtered, many of them even literally crucified. On the day that the program was going on the air 2000 Turks demonstrated before our office building in Holland. I received threatening letters coming from various Islamic individuals and organizations. They told me: ‘yes, you can now still say what you like, but the day is rapidly coming that we will tell you what to say or to be silent about. And we are on the winning side. Look how many Christian Churches are closed or turned into mosques and how many new mosques are opened.’ Then I understood for the first time that these foreign workers from Islamic countries were not just there to keep our economy going, not just there to earn some money or to flee some terrible situations in their home-countries, but that they are also there to conquer the world for Allah. One day the whole world will be under Allah, Mohammed has promised them. Needless to say that we did broadcast this documentary, but my family and me had personal police protection for some time.

For Muslims, conquest of the world is a promise and a duty rooted in the Koran. The concept of a jihad, or holy war, is an official doctrine of the Islamic faith. (To spread the Christian faith by the sword is not in the Bible! It is a distortion of the teaching of Jesus!) According to the Koran, anyone dying while engaged in a jihad goes straight to Paradise. Others can never be sure of their fate, and can only hope that things will work out in the end and that Allah will accept them. Consequently, Muslim must commit themselves totally to the religious duties prescribed by Islam.

The five most important of these religious duties are:

  1. To say the salat, the required prayers, five times a day, facing the holy city of Mecca;
  2. To pay the zakat, the church tax;
  3. To give alms to the poor;
  4. To celebrate Ramadan, in which one fasts during the day for thirty days and can only eat and drink after sunset;
  5. To perform the hadj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime, but preferably more often.

These are the five pillars of Islam, and the jihad, the holy war, could be considered a sixth pillar.

Islam reigns in the heart of Jerusalem, it dominates the Temple Mount. Hatred for Jews and Christians is promoted there in the two mosques. Some say there is no need to wait for any further ‘abomination of desolation’ in the holy place. It is already present. It is already there for centuries. It’s those 2 mosques and the preaching of the teachings of Mohammed, prophet of Allah, seen by Christians and Jews as a false prophet. Remember, Jesus did not speak of ‘an abomination that causes desolation’ in the temple, but in ‘the holy place’, Matthew 24:15. He did not use the common Greek word for temple. So He could very well have meant: Mount Zion/Moriah, the holy place, upon which the temple was built. Because He first speaks about the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. in Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 21:20-24. After that He looks into the far future and sees again Jerusalem as the center of Israel, but then with an ‘abomination that causes desolation in the holy place’, upon Mount Zion.

Cruelties by “Christians”
Some will respond to the comments above by pointing out that what was done under the banner of the cross in history also beggars belief. Think about the behaviour of the “Christian” knights during the medieval Crusades, in which they wrested the holy places from Islam and ruled over the Holy Land for two hundred years. When they conquered the city of Jerusalem, they drove the Jews who lived there, men, women, children, and old people, into the Great Synagogue and set fire to it, burning them alive, and the next day they celebrated Holy Communion. They killed and murdered Islamic people by the thousands.

“The enmity between the Muslim world and the Jewish people and Israel increased tremendously in 1948 when the independent State of Israel was founded”

It is also true that after AD 650 the Jews were better off under Islam than they were in the lands of Christendom for the next 1300 years. Even though Jews in the Islamic world were from time to time robbed of money and goods, they were seldom put to death (although Muhammad personally chopped off the heads of people of the Jewish tribe of the Kuraish for over 20 hours, until his arm could not function anymore) and they were in general able to practice their religion and culture. The enmity between the Muslim world and the Jewish people and Israel increased tremendously in 1948 when this small piece of land became the independent State of Israel as the crown of Zionism, a movement among the Jewish people for over a century. It is as if since then the sleeping giant of Islam awoke and since then the Muslim world is becoming more and more conscious of itself. Proudly claiming its predominant role in the future of mankind. And anxious to recapture Jerusalem.

By contrast to an age-long comparative tolerance in the lands of Islam, in the lands of Christendom, where the Christian message was that the Jews were the murderers of Jesus, people saw to it that the Jews were persecuted, robbed, and murdered and their religious books burned.

Some examples:

– Jews living along the Rhine were murdered and robbed in order to finance the medieval crusades.

– The Nazi’s did not come up with the idea of making Jews wear the yellow Star of David during the Second World War on their own, the practice actually dates back to the Middle Ages when the church made Jews wear distinctive clothes, such as a round patch of cloth or a special Jewish hat.

– During the Roman Catholic Inquisition in the southern lands of Europe, thousands of Jews who refused to convert to Christianity were burned at the stake, with crucifixes held before their eyes.

– The nineteenth and twentieth centuries pogroms in the Christian countries in Eastern Europe were often encouraged and launched by Russian Orthodox priests and clergymen, especially around the time of Easter when they would call upon the people “to teach the Jews, the ‘God-killers,’ a lesson.”

– The Holocaust took place in Lutheran Germany, and apparently there were not enough people opposed to what happened to the Jews to prevent the terrible deaths of six million Jews (including one-and-a-half million children) in the concentration camps. Individual Christians, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Denmark, did risk their own lives to do what they could to help the Jews. The names of the Dutch Corrie ten Boom and her family are famous. But we all know—and the Jews know—that the Pope in Rome (who is considered by Jews to be the leader of Christianity) was silent. And it is well known that war criminals were harbored in some Catholic monasteries after the war (although it should not be forgotten that during the war many Jews in Italy were sheltered in some Roman Catholic monasteries). We know of the conduct of the German Christians who collaborated with the Nazi regime, although individuals like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others gave their lives in an attempt to resist it.

Throughout history, many barbaric deeds were perpetrated in the name of Christianity under the “banner of the cross,” including the colonization of the world and the killing of the natives in order to rob them of their gold and other precious metals and natural resources. The Bible was quoted in defense of slavery and racism against black people.

Anyone who knows the Bible knows that such terrible behavior has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ. It cannot be deduced from the teachings of the New Testament, but is a terrible travesty of them. The Christian faith does not uphold the concept of “a holy war.” The ‘Gott mit uns’ (‘God with us’) written on the belts of German soldiers had more to do with taking God’s name in vain than with praying. Christendom has so much guilt of its own that it has little right to point the finger at others. But Christendom also has very little to do with the true Christian faith that lives out the atonement of Christ, which speaks of forgiveness and of loving God, even as He loves us, and of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

By contrast, in the Koran, a holy war, a jihad, is presented as a means of spreading the Islamic faith all over the world. It is an essential part of the religion.


The Last of the Three Monotheistic Religions
Judaism begins with Abraham, about 2000 years before Christ.

Christianity begins with Jesus, at the beginning of the Christian calendar.

Islam begins with Mohammed, about 600 years after Christ.

While Islam acknowledges links to Judaism and Christianity, it regards itself as entrusted with the last and definitive revelation of ‘God’, Allah. It is inconceivable to Muslims that the Holy Places in Israel should be in the hands of religions that were mere way stations on the path to Islam.

Islam is the ultimate ‘replacement theology’.

They say: ‘yes, maybe once the Jews were the chosen people of God, but they blew it. Then came the Christians, and, yes, they then were the chosen people of God, but they blew it as well. Then came Mohammed with the final revelation of Allah, and now we, the Muslims, are the chosen people of God. We replace you both!’

Jerusalem is the Muslim’s third holy city (after Mecca and Medina). It is held to be holy, even though it is never mentioned in the Koran, because one night in a dream Mohammed reportedly ascended on his horse to heaven from Jerusalem. The print of the hoof of that horse is still pointed out in the Mosque of Omar on the Temple Mount! In the Koran a place is mentioned as the most distant mosque/holy place, without telling where that place is located. But in the days of Mohammed there was neither a mosque nor a temple in Jerusalem. So, historians believe the Koran is referring to the village of Janad in Yemen where in 615 AD the Al-Janadiya-Mosque was built. These scholars believe that it was from here that Mohammed made his trip to heaven. But today for whatever reason Muslims point to Jerusalem as the holy place the Koran is referring to, although, when Muslims in Israel pray, they turn their backs on Jerusalem and pray into the direction of Mecca.

So, this is the reason that Muslims insist that Jerusalem be returned to them and must come back under their rule. Israel was under Allah for over 1000 years. Allah is all-powerful. It simply cannot be that this small piece of land – Israel – and the third holy city of Islam – Jerusalem – would ever go back to religions that are considered by Islam to be stations-passed-by, like Judaism and Christianity. They consider themselves to have the one and only true religion, and to permit these sacred Muslim sites to be in the hands of others, whether Jewish or Christian, would give the impression that those religions and their God are stronger than Allah. And that is out of the question.

Many underestimate the role of Islam in the conflict in the Middle East. That conflict is not primarily about oil, or about a homeland for displaced Palestinians, or about any political or economic interests. It is, on the deepest level, a religious conflict, between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the other gods, the powers, the ideologies of the world.

So instead of speaking about ‘the three monotheistic religions’: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we had better speak about the fact that there is only one monotheistic religion, being Judaism. And that Christianity is a branch growing upon that old root. And that Islam is another religion.

Who is Allah?
According to some experts, Allah was one of the 365 gods (desert ghosts or djinns, as they were called), one for each day of the year, who were worshipped by the Arabian Desert tribes at the black stone, the Kaabah, in Mecca long before Mohammed appeared on the scene. One of those desert gods, the one of the particular day on which Mohammed happened to conquer Mecca, was elevated as the one true God, Allah. Some experts claim it actually was the moon-goddess that was worshipped that day. Therefore, they say, is the Crescent moon still the symbol of Islam, visible in the flags and on top of the mosques. In that case Allah would be a promoted demon, a promoted djinn, which since then was declared by Muhammad to be the one and only ‘God’, Allah.

Of course, Christians—and Jews—should not have holy places, but they have a holy God, whom we want to serve with holy lives. Still, some places do have symbolic value for our faith as well. And the fact remains that the holiest site in Jerusalem, the site of the temple, is in non-Jewish, Arab, Gentile hands, and that Jews cannot even access it for prayer. They must stay below, at the foot of the remains of the huge walls built by Herod, which once surrounded the temple complex. They pray at the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall, the Kotel), which is a remnant of the second temple, built after the Babylonian captivity under Ezra and Nehemiah and enlarged by Herod. That is as close as they can get to the place where the Holy of Holies was located in the temple without running the risk of stepping unaware upon that most holy spot. That is also the reason that even when they were permitted to pray upon the old Temple court, between the mosques, they still would refrain from doing so. In order not to risk entering the place where once the Holy of Holies was. Still, it is intolerable that in Jerusalem there would be areas with signs: ‘Fur Juden verboten’ (Forbidden for Jews).

Jerusalem in Islam
In the Old Testament, Jerusalem is called by name 667 times. In the New Testament 144 times. In the holy books of the Jews and Christians, Jerusalem is the city of the great King and in that capacity a central theme. But what about Islam? Why there is so much commotion about Jerusalem in the Islamic world today? The impression being created is that Islam is as close to Jerusalem as Judaism, yes even more. But that doesn’t hold true.

In the Koran, Jerusalem is not mentioned one single time. Although the name Al-Quds (the Holy place) is mentioned, but is has been disputed – as we have seen – if this means the original Jerusalem. It could very well refer to one of the other Islamic holy cities in Arabia. It was 6 years after the death of Mohamed that the city of Jerusalem was conquered by Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab in 638 and made an Islamic city. The Arab cities Mecca and Medina are traditionally the pilgrim cities of Islam, because that was where the life and struggle of the prophet took place. The direction for praying is also Mecca. Originally Mohamed joined the habit of the Jews of praying in the direction of Jerusalem – probably to win the Jews over for himself – but this was soon changed to the direction of Mecca. Which made retired mayor Teddy Kollek once said: “They show so much respect for Jerusalem, that while praying they turn their backs on it!”

As long as the city was totally or partly in Muslim hands– and that was with a few interruptions from 638 until 1967 – Jerusalem has never been the capital of an Islamic state or even a province. On the 2nd of June 1964 the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was founded in a hotel on the Mount of Olives. The old city of Jerusalem (and that is what this is all about) with all the holy places was then under Arab (Jordanian) sovereignty. Nevertheless, nobody thought of claiming Jerusalem or proclaiming it as the capital of a Palestinian State. Even in the foundation document of the PLO, Jerusalem is not mentioned once! As a matter of fact, during the 19 years of Jordanian sovereignty over the city, not a single member of the Saudi royal family, the keepers of the Islamic holy places, has ever been on pilgrimage in Al-Quds.

Why is Jerusalem now so important for Muslims, even so far that many are prepared to give their lives for it? Why does Arafat repeatedly call for ‘jihad’ for holy Jerusalem? Why are children being indoctrinated to give their blood for the liberation of Al-Quds? Why did Arafat continue to insist that first of all the battle is about Jerusalem? And how could he in 1994 go so far, clearly contrary to the Koran and the Islamic traditions, as to name in a mosque in Johannesburg, Al-Quds– the holiest place of the Islam and all Muslims?  I can only find one reason for this: it is not so much about the city as about the fact that she is once more undivided in Jewish hands!

The Jerusalem law, accepted on the 30th July, 1980 by the parliament of Israel, confirmed Jerusalem, which has been united since 1967 as the one and undivided capital of the state of Israel. As a reaction the Saudi crown prince Fahd (who never even took the trouble to visit Jerusalem!) called for the holy war for the protection of the holy places. Evidently Jerusalem has been upgraded a thousand times for the Muslims, since Israel is in charge. To put it in biblical terms: for the Arab world, Jerusalem is the heavy stone and the cup of poison, to which she is eagerly stretching out her hands. Apparently, the Arab propaganda works so well that almost the whole world and great parts of the church think that Israel has to give up the claim to Jerusalem and should bow to the Islamic demands.

Meanwhile the meaning of Jerusalem for the Jews is crystal clear. One prays in the direction of Jerusalem. At least three times a day all faithful Jews pray: “Build Jerusalem, the holy city, quickly, in our days.” On every Pesach you hear: next year in Jerusalem. All of life, all of the liturgy, the whole annual cycle of biblical celebrations has been marked by homesickness to Jerusalem. The thinking of faithful Jews has been saturated with awareness of Psalm 137: ”…If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget me…”

Covenant with Isaac and Jacob, Blessings for Ishmael
When one looks at the heartbreaking conflict in the Middle East, one cannot help but think about the biblical background. Can one find some solutions and understanding there? What has the Bible to say about the conflict between these two brothers with the same father Abraham, but with different mothers?

Ishmael, who is considered to be the forefather of the Arab nations, was born from his Egyptian mother Hagar who was a maidservant to Abraham’s wife Sarah, and Isaac was born from Abraham’s wife Sarah and is the forefather of the Jewish people, of Israel.

(Paul refers to this story as well, in Galatians 4:21-31, when he explains the difference between the covenant of the law and justification by works of the law, and the covenant of grace and justification by faith. He refers to people who stick to the first covenant as ‘slaves’, but those who live by faith as ‘free’. Abraham sometimes lived by faith, as a spiritual man, trusting God for the fulfilment of His promises. But sometimes he forgot to live by faith, believing that by his own works he had to bring about and realise what God had promised. Aren’t we all the same?! Sometimes living ‘in the flesh’, and sometimes ‘in the spirit’?! But that is another story and another article!)

Although in Abraham’s case his decision to take Hagar and realise himself ‘in the flesh’ what God had promised, by having a natural son of her, he created problems for himself and for others that last till this very day. Living ‘in the flesh’ instead of living ‘in the spirit’ does that! Problems that remain till this very day in the fighting between the descendants of Ishmael and of Isaac who was the son of the promise made by God. Isaac was finally born as a miracle from God. Sometimes faith has to wait a long time! But finally, it happened. Abraham was too old and Sarah was too old, and yet Isaac was born. As a miracle of God. That is why the Bible calls Israel ‘God’s firstborn son’, Exodus 4:22-23, Hosea 11:1. Jesus is called ‘God’s only begotten Son’, John 1:14/18, but Israel is His firstborn.

What are the positions and the rights of these two half-brothers, when you look at it from a biblical perspective?

When Abraham is 99 years of age – and Sarah was past the age of childbearing – the Lord God visited Abraham, and told him that his wife Sarah would have a baby of her own. Then we read in Genesis 17:17-22: “…Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ’Will a son be born to a man a hundred   years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under Your blessing!’ Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ When He had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him…”

So, Ishmael and his descendants, the Arab nations, have the promise of the blessing of God. He promised them that they would be fruitful and would be great nations. Today there are between 200 and 300 million Arabs, living in over 20 different and independent nations in the Middle East, in a vast area of very oil-rich land. So, God has kept His promise and He has blessed Ishmael tremendously.

After all the slaughters throughout the centuries there are only about 15 million Jews left in the world. In Israel – which is smaller than tiny Holland and you can hardly find Holland on a world map! – are living about 5 million Jews, in a tiny land with no oil. Another 5 million still live in the USA, about 2 million in the former Soviet Union, and the rest is still scattered around the globe. A Jewish friend told me: ‘It is not fun to be the chosen people of God. I wished He choose someone else!’ Not many Jews are left in the world. Israel is an old people, bleeding from many wounds.

By the way, the prophet Zechariah prophecies that ‘In the whole earth’ (because that is the correct translation, instead of ‘in the whole land’, compare with Zechariah 14:9) two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it.’ Zechariah 13:8. And when one adds up all the numbers of Jews that were massacred throughout the ages, the numbers show that in history 2/3 of the Jewish people have been wiped out, and only 1/3 is left. Even if one likes to translate ‘in the whole land’ – meaning ‘Eretz Israel’, the ‘land of Israel’, this prophecy has been fulfilled as well, when by the Romans in 70 AD and 135 AD over 2 million Jews were slaughtered and the rest – almost totally, although there have always been Jews living in Israel, also during the last 2000 years! – was led into captivity. When we add the numbers of the killing of the Jews over the centuries – with the final slaughter of 6 million under the nazi-regime in Germany – the conclusion can be drawn that over the ages 2/3 of the Jews have been wiped out, and only 1/3 is left. So, to think that in the near future Israel will become ‘one big Auschwitz’ during the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’, the ‘tribulation’, is not necessarily according to Scripture, although difficult times for Israel are still to come.

“Christian Arabs and Christian Palestinians are in a very difficult situation. Not because of the Jews, but because of their fellow Islamic Arab and Palestinian brothers”

Blessings for Ishmael, but God’s everlasting Covenant He made with Abraham, and confirmed it to Isaac, and later to Jacob. The problem in the Middle East is not that one is an Arab or a Palestinian, because there are great blessings for them being descendants of Ishmael. The problem is that Arabs and Palestinians almost totally nowadays are under Islam and serve Allah – as so many other people and nations, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the former USSR-republics, the half of Africa. Christian Arabs and Christian Palestinians are therefore in a very difficult situation as well. Not because of the Jews, but because of their fellow Islamic Arab and Palestinian brothers.

Christians in the Muslim World
We in the western nations are free to follow our religious beliefs as we wish, and as Christians it is all too easy to forget the suffering and fear that so many of our fellow-believers are living with in many Islamic countries today. They increasingly find themselves to be an embattled minority with dwindling rights who are trapped in poverty and uncertainty.

There are around 40 million Christians living as minorities in Muslim-majority countries in the world today. In some parts of the world these Christian minorities are a substantial size – at least 15 million in Indonesia, about 9 million in Egypt and 3 million in Pakistan. In other places, there may be no more than a few dozen national Christians in the whole country, for example, the Maldives. In countries such as Saudi Arabia national Christian believers must keep their faith secret or they would be executed. It is impossible to know exactly how many Christian believers there are in these countries.

Christians living in Muslim countries are generally treated as second-class citizens. They meet frequent discrimination in education, employment and even from the police and judiciary. They are despised and distrusted, often suspected of giving their primary loyalty to the “Christian” West rather than to their homeland. The basis of this lies in the traditional Islamic teaching that Christians and Jews – “the people of the book” – should be subjugated by force and made to pay a special tax called jizya. Surah 9, verse 29 of the Koran instructs Muslims as follows:

Fight those who believe not
In God nor the Last Day,
Nor hold that forbidden
Which hath been forbidden
By God and His Apostle,
Nor acknowledge the Religion
Of Truth, (even if they are)
Of the People of the Book,
Until they pay the Jizya
With willing submission, And feel themselves subdued.

These subjugated peoples were designated dhimmi. As well as the jizya there were many other conditions imposed on dhimmi, most of which were designed to underline their inferior status. Though these are not followed strictly nowadays, the general attitude still prevails across the Muslim world.

In some countries there is legalised discrimination against Christians. In other cases, it is community and society, which treat them unfairly despite good laws and constitution. Often it is a mixture of the two, as for example in Egypt. One of the greatest difficulties facing Egyptian Christians concerns church buildings. They have to get permission from the president himself to build a new one, a process, which can take many years and has no guarantee of success. Even permission to repair existing church buildings is hard to obtain, and on top of this they often find their buildings are attacked. In lawless areas of rural Upper Egypt they face much violence to themselves, their homes and their fields from Islamic extremists, some of whom demand payment of jizya. The government seems unable to protect rural Christians from these militants.

Pakistan’s Christians have three particular handicaps. Firstly, there is an electoral system that effectively deprives them of any political voice. Secondly, they are very vulnerable to false accusation under the so-called “blasphemy law” which lays down a death sentence for the crime of “defiling” the name of the Prophet Muhammad. Although none have yet been executed, zealous Muslim individuals who believe this is pleasing to God have murdered several Christians accused in malice under this law. Thirdly, in the Islamic court system, the witness of a Christian does not carry as much weight as the witness of a Muslim, putting them at a severe disadvantage.

In Nigeria Christians slightly outnumber Muslims but are concentrated in the South of the country, with Muslims forming a majority in the North. Twelve Northern states have recently introduced full Islamic law (Shari’ah). Despite promises that Christians in these states would not be affected, they are facing a variety of restrictions and difficulties as a result. Furthermore, there have been many incidents of violent rioting, in which hundreds of Christians have been killed and thousands made homeless.

Anti-Christian violence on an even greater scale is now occurring in parts of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Until a few years ago, this country was an example of harmonious Christian-Muslim relations and real equality between the two communities. Now, however, Islamic militants in a systematic genocidal campaign to eliminate them are targeting Christians in the Moluccas Islands and in Sulawesi. Many thousands of Christians have been killed, as village after village has been burnt to the ground, and almost half a million have been made refugees. In addition, at least 7,000 Christians have been forcibly converted to Islam. Many of these were forcibly circumcised as a sign of their new Islamic faith. This includes men, women, children and the elderly, and the circumcisions were usually performed without antiseptic or anaesthetic.

The Sudanese government is ruthless in attacking the African Christians and animists in South Sudan, who refuse to accept its policies of Islamization and Arabization – hence the brutal civil war which has been running since 1983 and which has resulted in the destruction of the entire infra-structure of the South. Millions of Southerners have fled, either to the North or to neighbouring countries. In the North they find themselves discriminated against in many ways. The shantytowns where they live are often bulldozed, and lorry-loads of Christians have been forcibly dumped in the desert with no food, water or shelter.

Worse than Ever
Since September 11th 2001 and the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, followed by American attacks on Afghanistan, the situation for Christians in the Muslim world has become even more tense and dangerous. They are an easy local target on which Muslims can vent the anger they feel against the United States.

On 20th September a 13-year-old Christian stallholder in Pakistan was beaten to death by a gang of Muslims who refused to pay for the food they had bought from him. They told him to “take your payment from America”. Two churches in Isiolo, Kenya, were burnt down on 26th September and the words “God is Great” and “We condemn America” carved into the charred remains. In Israel on 8th October, a supporter of Osama bin Laden stabbed a Christian convert from Islam to death, and shouted, “You are an apostate!” In Malaysia eight Christian workers at the headquarters of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship were hospitalised on 23rd October after coming into contact with an envelope containing white powder. The powder was sent with an offensive letter, claiming the powder was anthrax and promising the death of the staff, the destruction of their office and a curse on Christians in general. In Iraq it is reported that some Christians are now being left out of the distribution of government food rations and are being mockingly told to ask America for their food instead. They have become too frightened to wear a cross in public any more. On 28th October, fifteen Christians at Sunday worship were shot dead by Islamist gunmen who burst into their church in Bahawalpur. The gunmen shouted “Pakistan and Afghanistan, graveyard of Christians,” “God is Great,” and “This is just the start.” The massacre occurred several weeks after some Islamic religious leaders in Pakistan had announced a fatwa that two Pakistani Christians would be killed for every Muslim who died in air strikes on Afghanistan.

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