A recent conference sought to promote peace for Palestinian Christians — but was marred by accusations of anti-Semitism.
Christ at the Checkpoint USA, a four-day conference in Midwest City, Oklahoma, drew in about 150 evangelical Christians, Religion News Service reported. It was born out of a conference by the same name in at Bethlehem Bible College, south of Jerusalem in the West Bank, according to RNS.
The American version had the same mission: Give a voice to the Palestinian Christian community. The conference’s name, however, caused many to pause.
One of the guest speakers was Rev. Stephen Sizer, a retired Anglican vicar who has linked on his blog to sites that deny the Holocaust and accuse Israel of being behind the 9/11 terror attacks.
“Sizer’s presence at a ‘peacemaking’ conference hosted in part by the United Methodist Church Foundation in Oklahoma is a shock,” Dexter Van Zile, senior Christian media analyst for the pro-Israel group CAMERA, told the Jewish News Syndicate. “Sizer’s animus toward Israel and his disdain for Jews is well-documented.”
Rev. Darrell Cates, the Oklahoma conference’s director, said the conference was important because the plight of Christian Palestinians is often overlooked.
“The Christian community is primarily Palestinian, and they have an experience and a witness to the faith and to the gospel that is largely discarded or discounted and dismissed by most evangelical Christians in the United States,” he told RNS. “I think it’s because they’ve never really heard it.”
Cates denied that the conference is anti-Semitic and said it’s more complex than being pro- or anti-Israel.
“It’s a really complicated situation that takes humility and understanding and insight on how to be part of the situation in a helpful way and not just with an unconditional, unquestioning loyalty to either side,” he said.