August 23, 2014
JERUSALEM (BP) -- In war-torn Gaza and Israel, Christians watch with anguish as violence ravages the innocent on both sides of the conflict. But this "season of weeping and mourning" is "not void of hope," said Yohanna Katanacho, academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College and an "on call" pastor of Nazareth Baptist Church.

"Our tears are the bridge between brutality and humanity," Katanacho, who describes himself as an Arab Christian living in Israel, said. "Pray with tears" in regard to the Gaza-Israel conflict, he challenged believers.

The latest clashes between Israel and Hamas in the past six weeks have seen more than 2,000 killed and 10,000 injured. But as deadly attacks continue, Christians from both sides of the conflict continue to pray for peace that some would contend can only be supernatural, and peace that the Bible says is beyond understanding.

"We feel strongly that our position is to enlist prayer for all the people on all sides of the conflict," Dale Thorne, director of the Jerusalem Prayer Center, said. The center, an entity of Southern Baptists, is a five-minute walk from the ancient walled city of Jerusalem.

"The real question for us is how are we to pray in this quagmire of pain, fear, destruction and confusion," Thorne said. "We can only depend on God's Word. There is no other source."

Prayer is "invaluable" in times like these, he said.

"When we replace worry with prayer and anxiety with thankfulness, we experience God's peace, which will control our emotions and thoughts and keep us centered in Jesus the Messiah," Thorne said.

One leader of the Baptist church in Gaza said, "We have peace in our hearts."

For people like Faten,* that peace is vital.

Faten, a Baptist who attends the Bethlehem Bible College extension in Gaza, is grieving the deaths of two students who attended the school where her sister works. The students were hit by Israeli rocket fire while playing on the roof of their apartment building.

When Katanacho, the academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College, learned that rockets were striking close to the building where Faten lives, he phoned her asking if there was an area where she could seek refuge. "She chuckled and said that the only refuge she has is God and He is enough for her," Katanacho said.

He expressed amazement at her trust in God's care. "She wholeheartedly believes that her life is in God's hands," Katanacho said. "God is her refuge in Gaza. God called her to serve Him in this difficult place, and she will honor her Lord."

Hanna Massad, former pastor of Gaza Baptist Church now living in Jordan, said, "It's a truly desperate situation ... many lives will never be the same again." Read More
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