Christ at the Checkpoint Young Adult Workshop: "Contemporary Faith"
The Christ at the Checkpoint Young Adults “Kufiya and the Cross” Committee held a workshop entitled, “Contemporary Faith” at Bethlehem Bible College last week. They discussed the challenges faced by Palestinian Christian youth and the relationship between young people and church leaders.
The workshop was attended by Father Issa Thaljieh, the priest of the Orthodox Church in Bethlehem, Rev. Ashraf Tannous, the Pastor of the Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour, Dr. Charlie Abu Saada, a well know Christian activist, Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, Academic Dean of Bethlehem Bible College, Rev. Dr. Jack Sara president of the College, Daniel Bannoura, a faculty member at the College, and a group of young people from the Bethlehem area coming from different denominations and churches.
The workshop was facilitated by Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, as he presented a simple definition of the “Kufiya and the Cross” and the idea behind it. The “Kufiya and the Cross” movement aims to encourage Palestinian Christian youth to take an active role as followers of Christ in spreading justice and peace, through discussing the challenges in our societies from a Biblical perspective.
Rev. Munther spoke to the guests, especially the church pastors, and asked them why they thought young people are not active in the local church. Father Thaljieh stressed that each person must start individually by searching for God and a strong relationship with Him. This has to do with each individual person, not the church. Dr. Charlie Abu Saada added that there is a gap between the church and the youth in the whole world, and not only in Palestine. Statistics show that seventy-five percent of young people leave the church after school. Pastor Ashraf Tannous said that young people usually associate the church with a priest or pastor, and this is wrong! The Church is a family, a participation and a community. The priest is placed in the local church to serve the believer and not vice versa. The youth, not solely the priest, are the Church.
The Christ at the Checkpoint Committee conducted a survey among Palestinian Christian youth about their relationship with the church and the leaders. During the discussion, Rev. Munther presented the results to the pastors in attendance. The results showed that a large number of young people go to church consistently, but at the same time, they do not feel they belong to their churches. More than one third said that the leaders of their churches do not care about their psychological matters. Upon this result, the leaders replied that young people should ask, and the church will meet their ideas and demands. The church is waiting for the youth initiative. Father Issa stressed that this gap between the church and the youth is caused by the youth themselves and not the leaders. However, Rev. Ashraf opposed him, stressing that this gap was not widened by the young people.
The youth participated in the discussion and asked questions. They boldly expressed their displeasure with the leaders, explained the reasons why they do not go to church, and voiced why they feel they do not belong when they go.
The youth asked for opportunities to preach and speak in church to address their needs and problems, emphasizing the duty of the church to address their problems and engagement in helping solving them. They added that if they do not offer an initiative, the church won’t take the initiative. While the church leaders replied that there is a role for young people, it encouraged them to ask so they would be given. In the end, in order to move forward and make change, the initiative needs to come from both sides.
Daniel Bannoura, a faculty member at Bethlehem Bible College, shared the theme: “The Intellectual, Social and Religious Challenges Facing Youth Today,” which included atheism and rationality of faith.
Daniel asserted that faith in God is very rational, and that God is the basis of rationality. He also reiterated that faith is the answer to the main and important questions in life, such as the meaning of human existence. These questions have limited answers in science. Christianity is also the best system of life that is capable of answering life questions adequately and in an integrated way.
What is the solution? How can a talented Christian young man, who has a lot to offer to his church and people, regain his passion?
The meeting ended with Rev. Munther speaking about the character of Nehemiah from the Bible. Nehemiah, who prayed and fasted, and took a step of change, had a passion, maintained it, and did not allow the circumstances or people to extinguish it. Nehemiah was not satisfied with the current situation of his people, so he made a brave step towards change.
Rev. Munther encouraged young people to change and try to find a solution. “Do not let anyone kill this passion.”
For those who want to hear more lectures on this subject, and for the Palestinian Christian youth who want to make a change but do not know where to start, join with us in our upcoming conference. “The Kufiya and the Cross II- Between Reality and Faith” will take place from August 31st to September 2, 2017. For registration, please call 02-2741190, extension number 114.
Amira is the Communications Coordinator of Bethlehem Bible College. She is a committed Palestinian Christian who has a passion for writing about the intersection of faith and seeking justice for her fellow countrymen. To read more of her writings sign up for Bethlehem Bible College’s monthly newsletter.