Baptist Leaders Meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres

On September 25, 2007 representatives of the ABC accompanied Rev. David Coffey, the current leader of the Baptist World Alliance and members of his delegation to a meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres. This distinctive meeting was initiated with opening statements by Rev. Coffey, who offered greetings from 100 million Baptists around the world and also conveyed salutations from King Abdullah of Jordan, whom he met with a few days earlier. He ended the opening by proclaiming that we are all called to be peace makers.

Monther Naum, chairman of the ABC, gave a brief overview of the Baptist churches in the country and requested acknowledgment on behalf of the evangelical churches as a recognized denomination. This request came at an especially significant time, following the establishment of the Evangelical Convention of Israel in 2005, which included Baptists, Brethren, Nazarene, and Pentecostal churches. Bader Mansour, secretary of the ABC, shared about the opening of the Nazareth Center for Christian Studies which just opened on September 24, 2007. The Center, in association with Spurgeon’s school of Theology in Britain, will be offering advanced degrees in theology. He also shared about the Nazareth Baptist School for children grades pre-K through grade 12, considered to be one of the finest schools in the country.

Mr. Peres spoke about his commitment to support Nazareth hospitals and his continued support of the Cisco project for Nazareth, a project headed by Cisco that provides assistance in minimizing the digital disparity in Israel and promotes equal opportunities for Internet access for both Arab and Jewish students alike. He also voiced continued support for Hi-tech in the Arab sector. Rev. Monir Kakish, vice-chairman of the ABC, handed Mr. Peres a letter from pastors of evangelical churches in the West Bank concerning permits for entrance into the country for attending services and visiting holy sites. Mr. Peres promised to follow up on the issue.

The president disclosed his expectations for the peace conference scheduled for the end of the year, noting that both Israelis and Palestinians will be facing a complex, two-sided situation: both will need to negotiate externally among leadership and also internally amid growing citizen concerns among Israelis and Palestinians alike. Peres also noted the importance of the economic cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians so that citizens feel that peace is beneficial on a personal level, and not merely between leaders alone.

At the close of the meeting Ihab Elimi, the representative from the NBS board, presented Mr. Peres with a symbolic gift, but not before pointing out that NBS achieved 9 out of 22 prizes awarded to Israel in the international contest First Step to the Nobel Prize in Physics.

It should be noted that representatives from the ABC included Rev. Fuad Sakhnini of Nazareth Evangelical Baptist Church, established in 1926, and Rev. Hatem Jeries from Maranatha Baptist Church in Rama, in the upper Galilee.