Webinar Notes, Refugees Our Neighbors

Webinar Notes, Refugees Our Neighbors, selection of highlights featuring two webinars produced by Leadership Focus International in May and June 2021. Our international team of panelists, all of them leaders with the firsthand experience in ministering to refugees, immigrants and minorities, include Heather Staff (UK), Ryan Smith (US), Yousef Alkhoury (Palestine), Mihaela Kovacs (Romania), Liviu Bocaniala (Romania), Ali Noghandoost (Croatia), Noemi Mena Montes (The Netherlands), Jyl Hall Smith (US), Zdravko Plantak (US). While it may be challenging to listen to three hours of webinars in their entirety, sampling the highlights is something each one of us can do. Take 46 minutes this coming weekend, or as soon as you can, and let us know your thoughts. If you believe this is something your friends need to watch and hear too, we would appreciate you share it in your circle of friends.

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A Christian View of the Political Turmoil From Inside of Israel

Focus Conversation with Botrus Mansour, an Arab lawyer and General Director of Nazareth Baptist School. Botrus is also a Baptist Church Elder, and Chairman of the Convention of Evangelical Churches in Israel. He is the author of several books, of which the most recent one is ‘Looking from the Precipice, Reflections from Nazareth of a Palestinian Christian Evangelical.”

Henry Kissinger once said : “Israel has no foreign policy, only a domestic policy.”  In order to understand what leads to Israel’s policies it is important to have a grasp of the political system in Israel, and how it impacts the region and the world.

Join this important conversation on Zoom, Thursday, 17th June, 2021, at 6.00 GMT (8.00 pm CET). To attend registration in advance is required https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUrdu6grToqHN1N7cyG_uaVqeymgnJoifnp

The event is organized by Leadership Focus International and moderated by Tihomir Kukolja.

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In Medias Res: Refugees in Your Own Land

Yousef Alkhoury, Lecturer of Biblical Studies and Missions, Bethlehem Bible College, Palestine speaks at the Focus webinar “Refugees and Immigrants Our Neighbors”. 

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Refugees and Immigrants, Our Neighbors

Panelists, Focus Webinar, Refugees and Immigrants Our Neighbors

On Thursday, May 27, 20h CET (6pm GMT) we are continuing our current season of webinar conversations on refugees and immigrants, this time with the title – “Refugees and Immigrants, Our Neighbors”. Our underlining question remains: Should we, followers of Jesus, care? 

Our international team of panelists include: Heather N. Staff, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians. Liviu Bocaniala, President of a leadership development organization, Polylogos Association, Romania. Mihaela Kovacs, Founder and Director of Fundatia Beraca, Romania. Yousef Alkhoury, Lecturer of Biblical Studies and Missions, Bethlehem Bible College, Palestine. Zdravko Plantak, Professor of Religion and Ethics at Loma Linda University, California, US.

Our 90 minute conversation will include questions: Why are Christians divided over the acceptance of refugees and immigrants into our countries?  What obstacles have you faced in your ministering to refugees or immigrants? Are there similarities in the suffering of refugees and immigrants, and other minorities? What does it look like to be a refugee in one’s own country? How does the teaching of Jesus about loving our neighbors include loving our refugees and immigrants too, and what does this look like in practice? How can Christians help other Christians, and our communities, to welcome refugees/immigrants, and treat them with respect?

We are inviting you and your friends to watch and share this webinar with your friends.

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Only When One Turns to the Lord the Veil is Taken Away

We do not arrive at the TRUTH by carefully aligning Biblical proof texts into systematically organized themes, topics, doctrines, or systems of beliefs however important they might be. By doing so many have arrived at diverse teachings and truths, all supported by some kind of inner logic and reasoning, yet more often than not at odds with each other, while claiming the sole authority of the Bible in their conclusions.

We arrive at the TRUTH by beholding Jesus as revealed in the Gospels, and on the pages of the New Testament, and letting Him interpret and reinterpret everything else – whether the Old Testament covenant, or my church tradition or denominational beliefs, or my cherished beliefs, or fashionable beliefs of the day. 

But only a few dare to do so. Most of us find it very offensive and too radical still to accept that Jesus Christ is THE cornerstone upon which all our cherished notions of God, life, religion and the world, stand or fall. To look for the Truth elsewhere means to choose blindness. It means to remain under the veil of ignorance, confusion and without direction. 

The truth is that “whenever anyone turns to the Lord the veil is taken away…” (2. Corinthians  3:16.) Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, but I tell you!” (Matthew 5:21.27.31.33.38.43.)

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Meeting Jesus on the Refugee Trail, Webinar

Zoom attendance requires registration. Register here.

The treatment of refugees and migrants over the past several years has been a very much contested issue in the US and Europe. The spectrum of attitudes towards them, shared among many Christians too, ranges from the expressions of compassion and acceptance to those of hostility and aggression. Often Christians are the most vocal against the acceptance of refugees and immigrants. Too many Christians, in Europe and the US, and other places are rejecting any policy and action that would treat refugees and migrants with empathy and dignity.

The current situation begs a question: After 70 years of the 1951 International Convention of Refugees in existence, and several years of intensive and challenging migrations of people across international borders, what stand should Christians take in regard to the treatment of refugees and migrants as they come to our countries? In short, should the Followers of Jesus welcome refugees and immigrants, or reject them? 

Some of the questions included in the conversation will be: Why are Christians divided so much over the acceptance of refugees and immigrants into our countries? Are you or your church, and in what way involved in aiding refugees? What obstacles have you faced in your ministering to refugees or immigrants? How can Christians help other Christians, and our communities, to welcome refugees/immigrants, and treat them with respect? What does the Jesus-centered theology of refugees and immigrants look like?

Our team of international panelists, all of them leaders with the firsthand experience in ministering to refugees, immigrants and minorities, include Ryan Smith, US; Jyl Hall Smith, US; Liviu Bocaniala, Romania; Noemi Mena Montes, The Netherlands; Ali Naghondoost, Croatia; Mihaela Kovacs, Romania; Tihomir Kukolja, US. One of our panelists has a personal experience of being a refugee.

This webinar will go live also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/leadfocusinternational

Join us via Zoom, Thursday 22 April, 2021, at 6.00pm GMT, and be a part of this important conversation. Register now to attend.

Watch the webinar here:

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Palestinian Christians, Webinar Notes

Webinar Notes, Palestinian Christians: Have We Forgotten Our Palestinian Brothers and Sister? A group of young Palestinian Christians talk about the challenges Palestinian Christians are facing due to the biases of many American and Western Christians. Featured contributors are Areej Murad, Shadia Qubti, Yousef Alkhouri, Lamma Mansour and Jack Munayer. They all represent a new generation of young Palestinian leaders, actively involved in peace-building, reconciliation, and human rights and social activism. Time 15:10 min. 

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Christian Nationalism, Webinar Notes

A selection of webinar highlights from two webinars, Overcoming Christian Nationalism, and Christian Nationalism and Christian Identity Do Not Belong Together” produced by Leadership Focus International, February and March 2021. Time 28.33 min.

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Christian Identity and Christian Nationalism Do Not Belong Together

Camilla Bocaniala, one of the panelists

‘Christian Identity and Christian Nationalism Do Not Go Together’, was a message a group of international panelists shared on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. It is one thing to love one’s country, and quite another to be idolatrously obsessed with one’s country, nation, race at the expense of healthy relationships with anyone outside the circle. It is even worse when nationalism is wrapped in a ‘Christian’ blanket. 

Our panelists were:  Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association, a leadership development organization. David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development, including UN and US Government. Jyl Hall Smith, US, Adjunct Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio, and a boards member of Faith 2020. Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians. Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda University, California. 

The panelists talked about a difference between patriotism and nationalism, complexity of the identity question, our primary and defining identity in Jesus, biblical Christology, spiritual offensiveness of nationalism, practical solutions to the challenges of Christian nationalism. This webinar was a follow-up webinar. Watch here the first webinar on Christian nationalism ‘Recognizing and Overcoming Christian Nationalism’. Recommend our webinars to your friends too. 

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We Really Don’t Want to Talk About This

Photo: A view from Baytown, TX

I’ve been recently reading the Old Testament books that major in God’s judgments against the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; judgments that were delivered by means of the Assyrian and Babylonian invaders, which ultimately led both kingdoms into captivity. 

One cannot miss the point that God was delivering repeated warnings over an extended period of time, from one generation of kings, leaders and people to another. He told both kingdoms plainly that should their rebellion against Him continue, His judgments would follow with certainty and precision. 

It needs to be said that God was not angry with his people because they were involved in some petty, minor, trivial mischiefs.  One needn’t go beyond reading Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 1. and 2. Kings, and 1. and 2. Chronicles to realize that it was the lifestyle of demonic idolatry, syncretism, abuse, injustice, oppression which made them face God’s judgment. 

The list of sins was a lengthy one, and concretely spelled out. They included “shedding of innocent blood”, “oppression of alien (immigrants, refugees)”, “mistreatment o fatherless and widows”, “acting wickedly”, as well as pursuing corruption, sacrificing their own children to demons, and leading shamelessly a promiscuous lifestyle. (Ezekiel 22). 

I used to read the Old Testament judgment accounts in the past more academically, by distancing myself from any real personal impact. Not any more. As I observe the rapid growth of moral, social, political and religious decadence today, the Old Testament judgment passages are coming to life with force. They are not any more a story of some distant, ancient tragedy far removed from the bearings of our days. They are coming to life as the harbinger of our own days.

Most of us do not like to talk about it. We really do not want to talk about this, but the day of big reckoning is coming ever closer. The sins of our age are no less grave than those so graphically painted by the Old Testament prophets. And just as God could not tolerate the sins of the ancient civilizations for ever, He will not tolerate the sins of our civilization for ever. Because of Jesus we should know better, act more accountably. “To whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” – says Jesus. (Luke 12:48, NKJV)

“Once more”, states the author of Hebrews, “I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26). My friends, this warning is not a metaphor or an abstract piece of poetry. But this time He will not use the human hands of some earthly superpower to bring His judgments about. This time it will be a decisive action of the mighty hand of the King of kings, the Lord Jesus himself.

The messages of God’s judgment were not received well by the ancient recipients. Even less it is popular today.

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