Coming to Faith in Muslim ‘Palestine’

Palestinians who come to faith find little love from either Muslims or those born as Christians

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This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Israel Today Magazine

When I first met Mohammed at the Israel Today offices in Jerusalem, he seemed apprehensive about sharing his faith despite assurances we would not reveal his real name. Mohammed’s fears were not without justification. He bore physical scars for having converted from Islam to Christianity.

A resident of the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories, Mohammed came to faith in Jesus years earlier while visiting Jerusalem. At first, he spoke boldly and openly about the transformation in his life. That got the attention of the Palestinian police, who detained and tortured him before eventually freeing him on an expensive bribe.

“I wasn’t afraid, but now I am,” Mohammed told me.

Curious if this was the standard experience for Palestinian Muslims who come to faith in Jesus, I sought out the counsel of Matthew, another Palestinian Christian whose real name cannot be revealed for reasons of personal safety.

He said that much like the governments of surrounding Arab nations, the Palestinian Authority is playing everyone for the fool by subtly deferring to Muslim Sharia Law when their civil laws are too vague on a particular topic, like conversion from Islam to Christianity.

“They can look at the West and say there are no laws forbidding someone from becoming Christian, while telling fellow Muslims not to worry because everything is based on Sharia,” Matthew explained.

In general, a Palestinian Muslim who becomes a Christian won’t be harassed too much, so long as he or she keeps quiet about their faith. The situation turns dangerous should the new believer speak out against Islam, or even be perceived to do so. Sharing the Gospel falls under that category.

What is perhaps even worse is the rift between those Palestinians born as Christians and new converts, who are commonly referred to as “Muslim Background Believers” (MBBs).

“Many of those born as Christians look down on MBBs as inferior and often won’t allow them in their churches,” Matthew pointed out. “Some Palestinian Christian leaders even try to convince MBBs that they made a mistake by converting from Islam!”

To be sure, fear of the Muslim powers-that-be plays a major role in this, but the result is the same: A Palestinian Muslim who comes to faith in Jesus finds very little love and support from the local Church. And those few that are trying to provide love, support and discipleship are woefully outmanned and under-resourced.

Beyond hopefully prompting prayer for these two men and the many more like them, these revelations again beg the question: Does the “Christian” West really want to facilitate the creation of yet another Arab state where Christians will be treated as second class citizens and coming to faith in Jesus will be cause for ostracism, torture or even death?

This article was originally published in our November 2015 issue
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