Imagine applying for a copy of your marriage certificate at the local government office and& the clerk tells you that your marriage and children are illegitimate all because you were married in a church not officially "recognized" by the government.
That has happened to some members of the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem. While the church has been a part of the Bethlehem community since 1978, recently the Palestinian Authority proclaimed it "illegitimate."
Why is that significant? When former Muslims or Orthodox Christians become members of First Baptist and get married in the church, their marriages are not recoginzed by the P.A., they become "second class" citizens. If they then have children, their kids are considered "non-citizens." They have few rights as Palestinians, they and the church are marginalized in the society.
At the same time in East Jerusalem, some Muslim neighbors of Khoury's Calvary Church have pressured the landlord of the building that houses the church to evict the evangelical congregation within 30 days.
This is not the first eviction for Khoury and his church members. They've been forced to vacate other church buildings in the city. Seems some Muslims think the right to religious assembly only applies to them in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.
Last month, President Obama issued an executive waiver so $192 million in aid could be resumed to the Palestinian Authority. Perhaps his administration should use America's financial leverage to convince the P.A. to ease up on Palestinian Christians. Under threat of losing U.S. financial help, it may force them to re-evaluate that "illegitimate" designation for the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem Christians. Maybe they'd be convinced to help Calvary Church find a suitable building in East Jerusalem.
A web site called Bethlehem Freedom has been established for those who want to help.
Also, for more on the plight of Palestinian Christians, watch my recent interview with Pastor Steve Khoury below.