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Week Ending August 5, 2005
August 5, 2005 2:00PM EST






William Murray Reports from Bethlehem

The First Baptist Church of Bethlehem has been bombed 14 times and the pastor, Dr. Naim Khoury, has been shot once. On Wednesday, August 3rd the beleaguered pastor told me that 85% of his congregation was unemployed and 25 children in the church were at risk of being sent to Muslim public schools because the parents had no funds to send them to Christian schools. I had planned to use some funds to send a report to the Religious Freedom Coalition's major donors directly from Bethlehem. Rather than mail that report the funds were given to the parents of the children with the greatest need. Each family we could help was given 500 NIS or about $125 to help with school supplies, uniforms and books.

At the Hope School in Beit Jala we gave grants to ten students bringing their total tuition costs down to zero. The average grant was $250 per student. For the Talitha Kumi School in Bethlehem we gave grants of $150 per student to 20 students to cover the cost of books, uniforms and transportation for the entire school year.

Additional grants of $100 to $300 per student were given to individual families and grants of up to $1,000 were given to evangelical  ministries operating in other areas of the "West Bank." While in Bethlehem I talked to business leaders about various ventures to furnish jobs to Christians who are for the most part now unemployed. I am taking several proposals back to the United States to be reviewed by investors.

I also visited with Christians in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, many of whom are self employed. One lady, Tikva Cohen Ratson designs and manufactures Christian Jewelry in her home. All her jewelry is inspired by the Word of God. Click here to see Tikva's handmade jewelry. During my entire stay in the Holy Land I stayed at the missionary apartment in Ariel, Samaria. Ariel is the largest Israeli "settlement" and the home of the evangelistic ministry we support in Israel. Ariel has a small Christian population and the apartment here is also used as a house church. Various Bible studies are conducted throughout the week. While in Ariel I met with Ron Nachman, the long time mayor of the city. Earlier this year I arranged for meetings in the United States for him with pastors including a conference with Hispanic pastors in New York City. Mayor Nachman understands and appreciates the support for Israel and Ariel by American evangelical Christians.

Yesterday, Thursday, an ultra religious Jew who deserted from the Israeli army more than a year ago opened fire on a group of Arabs killing four. There was already an arrest warrant out for this man at the time of the crime. It will be interesting to see if the American media reports that he was an army deserter and a criminal. It is claimed that he killed the Arabs over anger at the Israeli pullout from Gaza. If this is true it is the first violence associated with the pullout. Some settlers have threatened to attack the army and the police and the term "civil war" has been used.

Meanwhile, this morning, I met with one of the Christian Palestinian families we support in Lod, Israel near the airport. The husband cannot go back to the West Bank and arrangements had been made for his children to stay with him. We were to pick the children up and bring them back to the village on the West Bank. No one in Israel found it even a little odd that one American and one Israeli were driving around in Israel with two Palestinian kids in the back seat. Ministry in the Middle East is a little strange at times and very difficult for Westerners, particularly Americans to understand. Saying that, I wish only that my readers understand that there are Christians in this land of all colors and all backgrounds, and that most of them need our help in an increasingly hostile enviroment. Next week I will post a complete report on this mission trip on the Internet in the form of a Chairman's Report. There is still time to send funds to families to help them keep their children in the schools. Click here to help or send a gift to Bethlehem Project, PO Box 77511, Washington, DC 20013



President George Bush heartened conservatives this week when he bypassed Congress and appointed John Bolton to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Since the 1970's when Bolton worked for Senator Jesse Helms and then in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, he has been known as a hard line advocate of American sovereignty. During the first Bush administration, he pushed to dismantle the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and renounced President Clinton's approval of the International Criminal Court. A recess appointment is a procedure that allows the President to fill a vacant job when Congress is not in session. Former President Clinton made 140 recess appointments. Senate Democrats blocked Bolton's confirmation twice in the past four months; however, the President felt this position was too important to leave vacant. With London facing such terror attacks, someone like Bolton is needed to make sure the International body is becoming more engaged in the War on Terror and to work on internal reform measures that would call corrupt UN officials to account. John Bolton's appointment as Ambassador to the U.N. will continue until the end of the current Congress in January 2007.


Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) new book, " It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good," is being promoted as the alternative to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) book, "It Takes a Village." Santorum is one Senator that conservative groups can count on to take the lead with issues such as marriage, partial birth abortion and judicial nominees. His book compares a family-based society with the "village-based society" written about in Mrs. Clinton's book. Santorum's ultimate conclusion is that the family-based society is more secure and effective than the type of society promoted by Senator Clinton. Santorum does not criticize other types of families, but liberal opponents have condemned him regardless and have smeared his book. Santorum may have a tough challenge ahead if he indeed runs for the Presidency in 2008. He is also up for re-election to his Senate seat in 2006. Santorum argues that it is the family unit that is the foundation of this country and will make for a fair society - not the federal government. Santorum appeared on ABC's This Week and challenged Senator Clinton to a debate. I look forward to Hillary accepting the offer.


RFC staff participated in a reception hosted by Ambassador Aziz Mekouar of Morocco. RFC continues efforts to reach out to the secular elements within the Moroccan Government in hopes to use our connection to assist the Christians there. RFC participates each year in the Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Morocco to address Human Rights and Religious Freedom issues with national and supranational parliamentary members from around the world.


RFC is cleaning out overstocked products.  Please check our bookstore at our website for the "End of the Summer Specials." Proceeds from our bookstore help the Religious Freedom Coalition continue it's work on Capitol Hill and Internationally.


For several years the Religious Freedom Coalition has offered 100% olive oil soap handmade by Christian families in Samaria. The men of these families are converts from Islam and have been accused of being "collaborators" with Israel. As a result they have death warrants against them and cannot return to their villages. Please order a few bars of Peace Soap to help these persecuted Christians. Your church can also offer the soap for sale and send the proceeds to the Religious Freedom Coalition. The soap is available to individuals for just $3.95 per bar! To learn more about this handmade olive oil soap click here or on the image.


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Peggy S. Birchfield, Executive Director 

Religious Freedom Coalition, P.O. Box 77511, Washington, DC 20013. Phone: (202) 543-0300

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