Steven Khoury, the pastor of The First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, finds himself in a challenging situation as he continues his ministry amidst the recent strife caused by Hamas’ attack on Israel.
Located in the West Bank, Bethlehem is a place of significance for Christians, but the ongoing events have made life complex and, at times, frightening.
In an interview with CBN Digital, Khoury, a Christian Arab, expressed both joy and the overwhelming nature of his role in Bethlehem. He described it as being “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” a sentiment shared by many in the region.
Hamas’ terror attack on October 7th and the subsequent turmoil have added to the difficulties faced by the local population. The shockwaves from the attack affected the area profoundly. Beyond the emotional impact, Khoury highlighted the practical challenges, such as roadblocks hindering travel and disruptions in the supply of food to supermarkets.
Khoury explained, “In the last 23 days, traveling has been limited almost … to a stop. No food coming into between supermarkets and so forth. It’s gotten better in the last week, but at first … supermarket shelves became very low because there’s no transportation of food and so forth.”
Amidst these difficulties, the people in Bethlehem are living in a state of fear and hopelessness. This is where Khoury’s ministry plays a crucial role. He emphasized their message of love and compassion, saying, “We teach our people to love their enemies. We teach our people to love those who persecute them. We teach our people to reach out to those who are different regardless of who they are, and to be the light to them, and to be the salt of the Earth.”
Given the historical and political complexities of the region, tensions have always been palpable, but the current situation has amplified them. Khoury, like many Christians worldwide, has been closely following the events in Israel and contemplating their significance from an eschatological perspective. Interestingly, Khoury has experience preaching about the end of days, and he shared some intriguing insights.
He mentioned that Hamas leaders recently held a meeting in Moscow, raising questions about the nature of their discussions. Khoury stated, “A lot of people don’t know this — Hamas leaders just left … Moscow. They were meeting in Moscow. What were they talking about? We know they weren’t just having a drink to stay warm from the cold weather; they were talking about things.”
The situation in Bethlehem has been complicated by roadblocks and disruptions in the food supply, leading to fear and hopelessness among the local population. Despite these difficulties, Khoury’s ministry emphasizes love, compassion, and reaching out to others, regardless of their background.The region’s historical tensions are currently exacerbated, making it a time of deep reflection for Khoury and many Christians, who are considering the unfolding events in Israel from an eschatological perspective.