Israeli government to expel Christian workers?

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I received an urgent prayer request from Israel this morning. Herbby and Anne Geer, representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention in Israel, have been denied visa renewals, an unprecedented act by the Interior Ministry:

This past week, we have been told by the Ministry of Interior, here in Israel, that they will not renew our A3 visa, and they have requested that we leave the country. They have refused to give a reason, namely, they don't have a legal one. Never in the history of the Southern Baptists has a visa been denied. We are here because of a historical right (Baptists were in Israel pre-1948), and also because of the Law of Status Quo (Israel and the US have an agreement which allows the exchange of Religious persons between the two countries).

Such a move by the Ministry of Interior would be precedent setting, one we can't allow to happen. It could impact the whole Christian community within Israel.

On Sunday, the Lawyer for the Southern Baptists and our business manager will approach the offices responsible for the decision to deny our visa.

We ask you to pray on this day: pray that the Lord would reverse the decision.

I received this message from Phil and Heidi Litle, friends from college who are also in Israel on Southern Baptist visas, working with the Christian community in Haifa.

I suspect this change has something to do with the political situation leading up to the March 28 parliamentary elections there. The voting system is an extreme form of proportional representation, and it often results in very small but very intense parties holding the balance of power as a major party tries to build a ruling coalition. Often the ultra-religious parties wind up holding all the cards, trading their support for key cabinet posts, such as the Ministry of Interior, which deals with immigration and religious regulation.

These ultra-religious groups want Christianity out of Israel. They are especially angry about Christian groups who provide help to Jews who have immigrated to Israel from the old Soviet Union. Their opposition has kept many Christian workers out of Israel. Nevertheless, until now, the Israeli government has "grandfathered" the visas that were allocated to Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christian groups prior to independence in 1948. The decision not to renew the Geers' visa reveals that the respect for precedent is gone, and that puts the presence of every foreign Christian worker in jeopardy.

Please pray, and contact your congressman and senators and express your concern.

To get a flavor of the Geers' work in Israel, here's a story from the Anniston, Alabama, Star about their involvement in the Maccabiah Games.


Joseph Wallis said:

These things tend to happen when Pat Robertson goes on record saying that God caused Ariel Sharon to have a stroke. Yes, I realize that Pat Robertson doesn't speak for all Christians, but try telling Isreal that.

I think Christianity has as much house cleaning to do as some other religions.

susan said:

Michael, you might want to post the e-mail
addresses and Oklahoma phone numbers of our senators and congressmen for others.

You can also voice your concern by writing to the President.

Gracia Burnham is a living testimony that foreign missionaries around the world have done amazing work. Remember the outcry from the American public to help Gracia and Martin Burnham(newspapers, new reporters, world coverage on television news)?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 10, 2006 11:04 AM.

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