Very good news: Palestinian Authority officially recognizes Palestinian Evangelical Council of Churches after 12 year effort. Here’s the latest.

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(Jericho, Palestinian Authority) — It is my deep conviction that Evangelicals in North America and around the world who love Israel and the Jewish people must also love all Arabs, including the Palestinian people.

The Bible is crystal clear: God loves all people everywhere. God most certainly loves the Palestinians. Indeed, He cares for them immensely and wants followers of Jesus to care for them, encourage them and pray for them.

The Lord especially wants us to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Palestinian Evangelical churches. We may not agree on everything theologically or geopolitically. Nor do they agree with us on everything. That’s okay. We can still live our neighbor and be committed to the kind of spiritual unity and fellowship that the Lord Jesus speaks of in John chapter 17.

To this end, I have some very encouraging news to share with you. God is showing His favor on Palestinian Evangelicals this month, and I wanted you to be aware of this news and rejoice over it.

“The Palestinian Authority has officially granted legal recognition to a regional evangelical group,” reports the Christian Post. “For years, the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land had operated in the West Bank, but without official recognition from the government….(Yet) Council President Munir Kakish announced at the World Evangelical Association (WEA) General Assembly held Nov. 7-12 near Jakarta, Indonesia, that the PA had finally granted his organization legal recognition.”

Munir Kakish, who pastors an Evangelical Church in Ramallah, has become a dear friend over the years, and I was so encouraged to get a direct report from him on all these developments. After all, I have been praying with him and his colleagues about such things for at least eight years.

Here are the remarks Pastor Munir gave at the WEA meeting. Please read them and share them with others. Please join me in thanking the Lord for this decision by the PA, and join me, too, in praying daily for the Palestinian churches to grow in depth, boldness and numbers.

“Good morning, I am Pastor Munir Kakish and I represent the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in Palestine (the West Bank), Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We are the united voice of the Evangelicals in Palestine.  

“We are committed to supporting those who are in Palestinian leadership positions through our prayers.   We are against injustice, tyranny, violence and racism and are for fairness, justice and peace for our Palestinian people.

“The council has been requesting official recognition from the Palestinian authorities to grant us our civil rights. Bishop Tendero  helped by visiting the authorities in order for them to grant us legal recognition. We appreciate his help.

“Just last week the Palestinian Authorities granted the Evangelicals legal recognition.

“Previously, we could not grant marriage licenses. Now ourlicenses are legally recognized.

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“Previously, our churches could not open bank accounts. Now a church can open a bank account.

“Previously, we could not register land or church properties in the name of the Church.  Now our churches are able to legally purchase land.

“We have been granted our full civil rights as a religious organization.

“This is a historic moment as other countries nearby do not have recognition and this places the Palestine Authority as a leader for religious freedom in the area.

“Here is the presidential decree signed by the Palestinian President, President Mahmoud Abbas!  I have worked for 12 years to obtain this decree.  

“Our hearts are full of thankfulness to God for this new declaration.

“We also want to thank President Mahmoud Abbas and Dr. Ramzi Khoury for making the Evangelicals a legal organization in Palestine.

I urge you, pray for the Palestinian authorities and the Palestinian people.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  Thank you.”

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BREAKING: After 450 rockets fired at Israel — and intense Israeli retaliation — terrorists accept ceasefire in Gaza. But please keep praying. Here’s the latest.

72546B5B-7263-45B1-AC04-21EA9A4C104F(Jerusalem, Israel) — After several days of intense fighting, a cease-fire is in now place between Israel and the “Islamic Jihad” terrorist faction in Gaza.

The truce, brokered by Egyptian intelligence, was set to begin at 5:30am local time. It was broken by the terrorists, but as of 3pm local time now appears to be holding. 

“A spokesperson for the Israeli military said that around 450 rockets had been launched toward Israel during the recent escalation, of which 60% landed in open fields and 90% of the remainder were intercepted,” reported the Times of Israel.

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In the face of this week’s fighting, I ask Christians around the world to pray for:

  • calm and security to be fully restored on both sides of the border
  • the Lord to comfort all Israelis and Palestinians who have been emotionally traumatized and physically wounded by the fighting
  • the Lord to show mercy to the families of the 34 Palestinians killed in the fighting, 25 of whom were confirmed terrorists
  • all Israeli and Palestinian children to be especially comforted — schools have been closed for the last three days and millions of kids have been huddled in basements and bomb shelters, alternately battling both fear and boredom
  • the Jewish and Arab followers of Jesus in the Land to know how best to show compassion to their people and to have opportunities to be bold witnesses for the Lord — the people of this region so desperately need to know and experience the Good News of Jesus Christ.
  • the Lord to give The Joshua Fund board and staff wisdom to know how best to be a blessing and comfort to those on both sides of the conflict.

Thanks so much. (For the latest updates and breaking news, please follow me on Twitter.)

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BREAKING: ASSASSINATION OF ISLAMIC JIHAD LEADER IN GAZA TRIGGERS WAVES OF ROCKETS AGAINST ISRAEL

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(Herzliya, Israel) — Multiple barrages of rockets are being fired at Israel at this hour after Islamic Jihad commander was killed by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli reporter Eylon Levy is reporting that “the IDF and Shin Bet attacked overnight a building with PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) commander Baha Abu Al Ata.” He adds that Al Ata was “a ticking bomb,” according to IDF, and peparing to “commit immediate terror attacks in various ways.”

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For the latest updates on this fast moving story, please follow me on Twitter.

Please pray for the protection of innocent civilians and for calm to be quickly restored on both sides of the border.

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Why should Israel appoint an Ambassador to the Christians? And is peace between Israel & the Gulf States closer at hand than most critics think? (Video of my briefing to the #ChristianMediaSummit in Jerusalem.)

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — On Monday, I was honored to address more than 150 Christian journalists, broadcasters, authors and media executives from more than 30 countries who have come to Jerusalem for the Israeli government’s 3rd annual Christian Media Summit.

I briefed the group on two topics:

1. My recent column in The Jerusalem Post calling for the next Israeli government to appoint an Ambassador the Christian community. After making it clear that I’m not interested in the position for myself — just trying to build broad-based support throughout the Israeli political spectrum for the concept — I laid out why we need such a position and how I see some of the key qualifications for the role.

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2. How doors are opening for Evangelical leaders — including some from Israel — to build relationships with senior Sunni Arab leaders in the region. I briefly described the Delegations that I’ve led to the Arab world over the past two years and why I’m cautiously optimistic that the prospect for peace between Israel and several of the Gulf States is actually increasing, despite all the naysayers.

To watch the briefing (which runs about 17 minutes), please click here. 

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Join Lynn and me on The Joshua Fund’s next “Prayer & Vision Trip” to Israel in October 2020 — and on our first-ever extension tour to Egypt!

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — It is with great excitement about God’s love for the people of Israel and her neighbors that I cordially invite you to join us for The Joshua Fund’s next “Prayer & Vision Tour to Israel.” It will be held October 13-24, 2020.

We are also hoping to offer — for the first time ever — an optional Egypt Extension from October 24-27, 2020. Explore the land of legendary Pharaohs and timeless treasures. Egypt’s rich history and fascinating culture will be on display, as we visit the Pyramids and view ancient artifacts in Cairo’s famous Egyptian Museum.

If you have never been to the Holy Land, it is hard to describe what a profound spiritual effect such a journey can have on you and your family. You may have heard people say God’s Word seemed to “come alive” in a new way when they walked where Jesus walked, from the shores of Galilee to the Mount of Olives and into the streets of Jerusalem. It’s true.

What better time to sharpen our spiritual eyesight than in the year 2020! I believe our upcoming Israel trip will allow you to see and experience for yourself, as well as intensify your desire to walk more closely with Jesus Christ.

If you have been to Israel before, this trip will be a great opportunity to deepen your understanding of how powerfully the Lord is moving there.

And this tour is like no other. You will have the opportunity to meet with and pray for local pastors and ministry leaders on the frontlines of the faith, as well as participate in a practical ministry project to bless the poor and needy. I will also teach at key locations and answer your questions about the future of the Epicenter. Please prayerfully consider joining us. Lynn I would love to see you here in Israel and hopefully in Egypt!

To view the brochure, please click here.

To watch a video, learn more details, and to register, please click here.

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It’s time for Israel to appoint an Ambassador to the Christian world & establish a Commission on Religious Freedom. (My latest column for The Jerusalem Post)

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — This morning, The Jerusalem Post published a new column of mine calling on the next Israeli government and Prime Minister to do two things:

  1. Appoint the first-ever Israeli Ambassador to the Christian world; and
  2. Establish a non-partisan Israeli Commission on Religious Freedom and Minority Affairs.

Here are a few excerpts:

  • In a world of some 7.3 billion people, fully 31% are self-described followers of Jesus of Nazareth. That represents a global Christian population north of 2.2 billion people, including more than 600 million Evangelical Christians.
  • That makes Jesus – known in Hebrew as Yeshua – the world’s most famous and beloved Israeli, and the New Testament the best-selling Israeli book in the history of mankind….
  • The vast majority of Christians have a deep love for the Land of Israel and its rich biblical history. Many routinely “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” as commanded by the psalmist. And far more Christians than Jews visit Israel. In 2018, fully 61% of tourists to Israel were Christians. For many more, it is a lifelong dream to visit the Holy Land and walk where Jesus and the prophets and apostles walked.
  • To be sure, not all Christians understand or support the modern State of Israel. But many do, and more could. A full-time ambassador to this enormous and strategic world would help…..
  • The responsibilities of such an ambassador should include….
  • Serving as the government’s primary liaison to all Christian communities outside the State of Israel, educating them about the history of Israel, promoting healthy Jewish-Christian cooperation, and refuting lies told against Israel and the Jewish people in the media, academia and….
  • Serving as the government’s primary liaison to all Christian communities inside the State of Israel. Fully 2% of Israeli citizens – upwards of 180,000 people – are followers of Jesus. Most are Arabs, but some 30,000 have Jewish roots. In addition, there are many foreign Christians studying and working in Israel. This ambassador should be responsible for serving these communities, answering their questions and helping resolve their problems….
  • Serving as the prime minister’s senior adviser on Christian affairs, including….

To read the full column, please click here.

Note: These are my own personal views. I am not writing in my capacity as the Founder and Chairman of The Joshua Fund, which is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that is never involved in political or legislative affairs.

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The Week Ahead: Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, Kushner arrives in Israel, “Davos In The Desert” in Riyadh, and more. What are the major events happening in Israel & the region this week? Here’s an inside look.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — What are some of the key events that will be happening here in Israel and throughout the region in the week ahead? And what are some key events you may have missed from last week? Here’s an inside look.

What’s Ahead?

  • Monday, October 28 — White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner is in Israel today. He is expected to meet in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Netanyahu, then separately with former IDF chief of Staff Benny Gantz. Joining Kushner is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials. Among the topics for discussion: the (apparently) soon-coming roll-out of the Trump Peace Plan. (see report in The Jerusalem Post)
  • All week — Israeli Blue & White Party leader Benny Gantz and his team continue coalition negotiations to form a new government. The clock is ticking. Gantz has only 23 days left, and little progress has been made so far.)
  • Tuesday, October 29 — The “Davos In The Desert” Conference on energy, technology and investment begins at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Senior Saudi officials will speak, as will CEOs and investment bankers from around the world. Senior Trump administration officials expected to attend include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and former Treasury undersecretary David Malpass, who now serves as the president of the World Bank. The Prime Minister of India is also expected to speak, as is the President of Brazil. The conference will run through Thursday, October 31. (see “scoop” — including day-to-day schedule — from Axios)
  • Sunday, November 3 — The 3rd annual Christian Media Summit, organized and hosted by Israel’s Government Press Office, kicks off in Jerusalem with gala event at the Friends of Zion Museum. Speakers include Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Christian journalists, broadcasters, authors and media executives from all over the world will attend. Invitation only. (see Summit website)
  • Monday, November 4 — Christian Media Summit, Day Two. I am scheduled to be one of the speakers at the Summit, held at The Orient Hotel in Jerusalem. (see Summit website)
  • Tuesday, November 5 — Christian Media Summit, Day Three. Attendees will travel to various parts of Israel for on-site tours and lectures. (see Summit website)
  • Wednesday, November 6 — Christian Media Summit, Day Four. On the final day of the Summit, attendees will meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the presidential Residence in Jerusalem. (see Summit website)

What Might I Have Missed Last Week?

  • Yesterday was International Religious Freedom Day. (see statement by Secretary Pompeo) 
  • Over the weekend, the leader of ISIS was tracked down and killed by US special forces (see Flash Traffic Report)
  • Last week, Netanyahu failed to form a government and the mandate passed to rival Benny Gantz (see Flash Traffic Report)
  • Last week, Turkey invaded northern Syria, the Kurds felt abandoned by the US, and some prominent Evangelical leaders expressed frustration with President Trump (see Flash Traffic Report)
  • Last week, Saudi Arabia appointed a new Foreign Minister — Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud. (see report and brief profile in Gulf News)
  • Early on Sunday morning, Israelis turned our clocks back an hour. We are now six hours ahead of Washington, DC and New York City (not the usual seven.)

Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for peace and calm in Syria, for protection for the Kurds, for a new and stable unity government in Israel,  for wisdom and mercy on each of the leaders in the region and their families, and for the Church in the Epicenter to be bold and courageous in walking with Jesus, teaching the Word of God and proclaiming the good news.

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BREAKING: Genocidal ISIS leader al-Baghdadi killed by US special forces in Syria. Here’s what we know at this hour.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — The world is waking up to dramatic news: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the terrorist leader of the Islamic State — responsible for waging genocide against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria — has been killed by US forces.

The raid was ordered last week by President Trump.

This is very welcome news. Though the White House has stumbled badly in recent weeks in Syria, the administration deserves real credit for leading a coalition of Arab, Kurdish and US forces in recent years that successfully crushed the bulk of ISIS jihadists, dismantled their caliphate, and stopped the genocide.

The risk now is that a complete US withdrawal from Syria could create a vacuum that would allow ISIS to reconstitute itself.

That said, taking out the top ISIS leader adds to the White House’s impressive victory.

Several years ago, I wrote a trilogy of political thrillers — The Third Target, The First Hostage and Without Warning — about the genocidal and apocalyptic ambitions of ISIS, and America’s hunt for its leader. I don’t believe that killing Baghdadi ends the ISIS threat, but it had to be done, and for the sake of justice I am grateful it finally has been accomplished.

Here is what we know at this hour:

  • “The United States military has conducted a special operations raid targeting one of its most high-value targets, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS),” Newsweek reports. “President Donald Trump approved the mission nearly a week before it took place.”
  • ”Amid reports Saturday of U.S. military helicopters over the Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, a senior Pentagon official familiar with the operation and Army official briefed on the matter told Newsweek that Baghdadi was the target of the top-secret operation in the last bastion of the country’s Islamist-dominated opposition, a faction that has clashed with ISIS in recent years,” the magazine noted.
  • “A U.S. Army official briefed on the results of the operation told Newsweek that Baghdadi was killed in the raid, and the Defense Department told the White House they have ‘high confidence’ that the high-value target killed was Baghdadi, but further verification is pending DNA and biometric testing. The senior Pentagon official said there was a brief firefight when U.S. forces entered the compound in Idlib’s Barisha village and that Baghdadi then killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Family members were present. According to Pentagon sources, no children were harmed in the raid but two Baghdadi wives were killed after detonating their own explosive vests.”

Please continue praying for the full healing and recovery of all the ISIS victims, and comfort for all the families who lost loved ones to the ISIS jihadists.

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BREAKING: New poll bodes serious bad news for Netanyahu as he fails to form government. Rival Gantz to receive mandate to try his hand. Can he succeed, or is 3rd election coming? Here’s the latest.

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UPDATE: On Wednesday evening, Gantz officially received the mandate to form a government. He has 28 days.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history, is celebrating his 70th birthday this week. He had also hoped to be celebrating yet another term as Prime Minister.

Instead, Bibi was forced on Monday to concede that for the second time this year he has not been able to form a majority of at least 61 seats in the Knesset.

He is also waiting for final word from the Attorney General — likely soon — on whether he will be formally indicted.

And a brand new poll bears serious bad news for Netanyahu.

Tonight, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is expected to give the mandate to form a government to Bibi’s main political rival — former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, now head of the “Blue & White” political party. Gantz will have 28 days to get the job done and emerge as Israel’s next premier.

Can Benny succeed where Bibi has not?

I wish I could tell you the answer but it’s simply unknowable at this moment.

That said, a new poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute bodes ill for Bibi. Consider these excerpts:

  • “65% believe that Netanyahu – if indicted – should resign from his position as chair of the Likud party”
  • “53.5% of Israelis think that he should already resign now”
  • Remarkably, “47% of right-wing voters support Netanyahu’s resignation” — this includes “31% of Likud voters,” Bibi’s own political party
  • What’s more, while “56% of the public support rotation between Netanyahu and Gantz in the position of prime minister” — that is, a national unity government — only “14% support a rotation…if Netanyahu is first in line to serve as PM.”

Please pray that Israel can form a broad, stable, national unity government quickly and does not have to go to a third round of elections.

Please also pray for the Prime Minister and his family, and for General Gantz and his family, and for all of their Knesset colleagues and advisors — for wisdom and for a willingness to work together for the good of the country.

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Going from bad to worse: Russia creates alliance with Iran & Turkey. Turkey invades Syria. Trump abandons the Kurds. Evangelical leaders speak out. It’s a mess. Here’s the latest.

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(Denver, Colorado) — The Turkish offensive into northern Syria is a dangerous military development. The emerging Russian-Iranian-Turkish alliance is a dangerous geopolitical development. And President Trump’s willingness to so easily abandon America’s Kurdish allies is a dangerous diplomatic development that could have serious domestic political repercussions if Trump and his team are not more careful.

I’m glad that VP Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo are heading to the region to try to persuade Turkish President Erdogan to call off the offensive. And Trump is now threatening Turkey with sanctions and saying he will stand with the Kurds. But it’s far from certain this genie can be put back in its bottle. It may prove too little too late.

Recip Erdogan is not a serious, trustworthy ally. He’s a monster who wants to rebuild the Ottoman Empire. He us an Islamist who supports Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood terror movements. A few years ago, he arrested upwards of 200,000 Turks in a brazen crackdown on his political enemies. He’s allowed thousands of ISIS terrorists to criss-cross his territory unchecked. Now, his forces are killing Kurds, creating a new refugee crisis, and further destabilizing the disaster in Syria that was created by Bashar Assad, Vladimir Putin and the Iranians. I struggle to understand how Erdogan is still a member of NATO.

In his initial phone call with Erdogan before the invasion, President Trump should have made it crystal clear that he would not tolerate a Turkish attack on the Kurds. Unfortunately, Trump gave Erdogan every impression it wouldn’t be a problem, even ordering all US military forces in the area to leave.

A few days ago, I spoke with Amir Tibon, an Israeli reporter for Haaretz, who was stunned that various Evangelical leaders, myself included, were speaking out so strongly on the subject. I thought you might be interested in reading the full article, as well as excerpts.

TRUMP DIDN’T THINK HE COULD EVER LOSE THE EVANGELICAL VOTE — BUT THEN HE ABANDONED THE KURDS

For the first time since entering the White House, Donald Trump has encountered significant criticism from evangelical leaders. Does the president have reason to worry about his own ‘base’?

Excerpts:

  • Something unusual happened in American politics this week: President Donald Trump was criticized by leading figures in the evangelical community. One after another, prominent pastors and activists denounced his decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and to stand aside as Turkey attacked Kurdish cities in the region. One pastor called the Turkish attack on the Kurds “a disgrace”; another warned Trump he could be “losing the mandate of heaven” over the decision.
  • It was the first time since Trump entered the White House in 2017 that he had to endure such a strong level of criticism from evangelical leaders. They had stood by him throughout the worst scandals of his presidency…..
  • In the 2016 election, white evangelicals cast approximately a quarter of all ballots in the presidential race, with 80 percent of them voting for Trump — which played a key role in his victory over Hillary Clinton.
  • Franklin Graham…tweeted on the subject…he directly addressed Trump and asked him to “reconsider” the decision….
  • Pat Robertson, an influential televangelist, warned on air that “the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen.” Both men are extremely loyal Trump supporters, who have so far rejected almost any kind of criticism aimed at the president and fiercely defended him….
  • Evangelical support for the Kurds is less well-known than the community’s support for Israel, and the two phenomena are very different from each other in terms of scope, history and levels of commitment. Support for Israel is a top priority for most evangelical voters and stems from religious beliefs about biblical prophecies. Support for the Kurds, meanwhile, is a relatively new phenomenon….
  • “Trump is still very popular in the evangelical community, and people remember all he’s done for Israel,” says Joel Rosenberg, an author and activist who has led several high profile evangelical delegations to Arab countries in recent years. Rosenberg tells Haaretz that “Trump is seen by most evangelicals as the most pro-Israel president ever, and as someone who has moved American policy in the Middle East in a good direction.”
  • But despite that strong level of support, Rosenberg cautions that Trump and his advisers should definitely be concerned by the reaction to the Syria decision. “It’s hard to make a case that this will have any political consequences for the president in the immediate future,” he says. “But it’s worth noting that this is the first time such criticism has been leveled at him from the evangelical community. I don’t think it would be wise to just ignore it.”….
  • According to Rosenberg, “It shouldn’t be a surprise that evangelicals care so much for the Kurdish people. The Kurds are loyal allies who fought bravely to defeat ISIS and have protected Christians in the region. They also have a history of working with Israel.” He says that evangelicals aren’t only pressuring Trump on this issue: Many were also highly critical of how the Obama administration, in his words, “abandoned the Kurds” during their fight against ISIS.
  • Rosenberg adds that many evangelicals are concerned about the precedent set by Trump’s decision to turn his back on a Middle East ally. “People are asking themselves, ‘Could he also turn his back on other allies in the future?’ Of course, most people when they ask that question are thinking about Israel.”
    Rosenberg tells Haaretz that the evangelical leaders’ calls for Trump to change course were “enormously significant” for another reason. “One criticism that evangelicals have constantly faced in the Trump era is that they’re so close to Trump and are [rarely] willing to contradict him or call him out. There are very good reasons for evangelicals who care about Israel to strongly support President Trump, but you can clearly see, based on the events of this week, that some evangelical leaders are also willing to criticize the president if they disagree with his policies.”….
  • Rosenberg, however, warns about taking the evangelical vote for granted. “The risk for President Trump isn’t that evangelicals will turn against him,” he says. “The risk is that a small percentage of the evangelicals who voted for him in 2016 will stay home next November [2020] if they’re not happy about what’s going on in the country and the world.
  • “If evangelical turnout goes down by even 1 percent,” he continues, “that could be enough to have an impact in key battleground states. We have more than a year until the election, and no one can say what will happen until then. But it would be good for the president to listen to those who are urging him to reconsider this policy.”

Please pray:
• For the protection and freedom of the Kurds

• For the safety and boldness of the many Christians in northern Syria

• For wisdom for the President and all US and regional leaders to know how best to handle the situation

• For Erdogan and other enemies that they would change their course and Christ would change their hearts.

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