As we mark another Holocaust Memorial Day, held each year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the ongoing nightmare experienced by the Jewish people – with anti-Semitism once again spreading like cancer – should drive us to our knees.
And I’m glad to say that our African brethren, at least, who have brought much-needed new life and vigour to the British church, are doing just that by calling a special day of prayer focused on our fractured relationship with Israel.
Wale Babatunde of the World Harvest Christian Centre in south London is particularly concerned by Britain’s failure to follow President Trump’s lead in recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
This follows a series of betrayals over the years which have undone much of the goodwill fostered by the government’s pledge, through the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago, to do all in its power to re-settle the Jewish people in their ancient land.
Fortunately, African Christians know how to pray, so we are fully expecting God to shake up our complacency over Israel – both in Parliament and in the Church.
My own MP, Dame Rosie Winterton (Labour, Doncaster Central), has already chaired a debate on Holocaust Memorial Day in the House. In a report to her constituents, she said this year’s theme, The Power of Words, was a reminder that the Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers, but with hate-filled words, adding that words can also be a force for good through which we can demonstrate that we will not stay silent when such vilification and de-humanisation occur.
In South Africa, meanwhile, farmer/evangelist Angus Buchan has called another It’s Time day of prayer for his country – this time in Cape Town where he recently addressed Parliament as part of a prayer rally.
Last year, 1.7 million Christians travelled to a farmer’s field near the central city of Bloemfontein to pray for a nation steeped in corruption and lawlessness, and Angus is hoping for a similar response on March 24 this year
We should be doing it here too. Many of us have forgotten, or perhaps never knew, that it was prevailing prayer – not Spitfires and Hurricanes – that won the Battle of Britain. Rees Howells and his Bible College students in Wales were on their knees daily throughout the war. In fact, according to Norman Grubb, in _Rees Howells – Intercessor _(Lutterworth Press), “the whole college was in prayer every evening from 7pm to midnight, with only a brief interval for supper. They never missed a day. This was in addition to an hour’s prayer meeting every morning, and very often at midday. There were many special periods when every day was given up wholly to prayer and fasting.” Howells told his students: “Don’t allow those young men at the Front to do more than you do here.” Over the Dunkirk period, Howells spent four days alone with God “to battle through and, as others have testified, the crushing burden of those days broke his body. He literally laid down his life.”
It’s time we did it again. Both Britain and Israel face an enemy just as terrifying as the Nazis, only subtler. This is the belief that we are no longer answerable to a heavenly authority, and that man is his own god – a secular/humanist view that has brought the beginnings of totalitarianism (that brooks no dissent) to a society once proud of its freedom. It was for this that my father’s generation risked their lives in World War II.
But as journalist Melanie Phillips has said on a tour of America, Israel is absolutely central to the recovery of Western values, which are based on the Hebrew Bible. “We’re in this together,” she told the Minnesota-based Olive Tree Ministries radio programme.
Here is the stark reality of what is facing the Jewish people today: Iran is fast developing nuclear weapons with which to “wipe out” Israel (in the words of the Ayatollahs and Iranian presidents) and, ominously in the eyes of many, the Russian Bear has now established a foothold in the region. The current spat between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia further adds to the tension and Gaza-based Hamas is repeatedly firing rockets into the Jewish state while Lebanon-based Hezbollah continues to pose a serious threat on its northern border. Brutal Islamic State are also stalking the area while the Palestinian Authority incites its people to murder and mayhem, and some Westerners are engaged in a boycott of Israeli goods on the pretext that they are oppressive occupiers of land not their own. But the truth is that, in most cases, Jews are being attacked simply because they are Jews, not for political or economic reasons.
Tragically, however, the South African government is fanning the flames of anti-Semitism with their ruling party, the African National Congress, having last month announced its intention to loosen diplomatic ties with Israel, citing alleged apartheid policies against the Palestinians along with America’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
Thankfully, the Zulu King is urging them to reconsider. Goodwill Zwelithini, monarch of South Africa’s largest ethnic group, praised the Jewish state for their help in curbing the devastation of drought through their cutting-edge water technology along with the spread of HIV/AIDS through Jewish-sponsored medical circumcision.
But in both Britain and South Africa, we have a God in heaven waiting to hear our cry for mercy. Jesus said we could move mountains with our faith. (Matthew 17.20 & 21.21, Mark 11.23)
Let’s pray for the mountain of paralyzing unbelief and complacency to be removed from our nations, in Jesus’ name!
PHOTO: Courtesy of Charles Gardner
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon, and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com