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Christian peace rallies defy anti-Israel lobby



An attempt by anti-Israel activists to disrupt prayer for Israel didn’t dampen the spirit of Christians on Sunday, 25 February, as they gathered in multitudes at locations throughout the country for Time2Rise South Africa’s (T2R SA’s) national day of prayer and fasting for South Africa and peace in the Middle East.

More than 10 000 people gathered at more than 100 different churches or venues in person, and many thousands more attended the events through livestream broadcasts, praying with their own church groups back home.

Their prayer meetings were also a demonstration that they didn’t support the government’s stance against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), according to T2R SA.

Pro-Palestinian groups purposefully scheduled protests for the same time and at venues strategically close to the prayer gatherings around the country. In spite of this, they managed to disrupt only the prayer gathering outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.

Actor Zane Meas, a founding members of T2R SA, experienced the disruption of 40 Christians on Sunday.

“We had been alerted during the week that Pro-Palestinian supporters were meeting on the same day as us at the same locations we had earmarked on our invitation,” he told the SA Jewish Report.

“Their invitation originally said 14:00, so we expected that by the time we arrived to pray, there would be no disruptions or confusion. However, on arriving, we realised that they had changed the time of their protest to 16:00.”

He said on noticing the flags and headscarves, they decided they would need to hold their meeting in a nearby park rather than their initially planned space.

“As we were concluding prayer, we heard a sound coming down the hill, and a group of more than 100 chanting Pro-Palestinian supporters were marching towards us. They marched right through our prayer circle,” he said.

Meas said that someone recognised him as an actor, and the group targeted him and a pastor who was wearing a shirt showing support for Israel. The anti-Israel mob insulted and intimidated them.

“I then recognised someone in the crowd as a man I grew up with, and put my hand out to shake his hand. He said he couldn’t shake it. He considered me the enemy,” said Meas.

Meas said his heart bled for South Africa. “What upsets me is that those attacking us were from our own country, people I grew up with. They made assumptions that we were praying against Palestine, which isn’t the case. We prayed for Palestine too, and for the peace of the entire region. This is the same peace we want for South Africa.”

Meas was eventually escorted from the site by police officials for his own safety.

Meas said that one of the reasons they were against the ICJ case was that they believed the motives of the ruling party weren’t pure. “The logic of the situation is that if those who are accusing really care about lives, they are in a position to negotiate for the release of the hostages.”

However, in spite of the disruption to the Constitutional Court gathering, the other nationwide gatherings went ahead peacefully and in high spirits.

At one of the key locations, droves of Christians gathered on the green grass area at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and declared in unison, “Father, we come as your people to distance ourselves from the ICJ case, and to withdraw from the decision accusing Israel of genocide.”

In standing to address the crowds, T2R SA founder, Dr Arno van Niekerk, said of the ICJ case, “We know that this is a false accusation. The government’s drastic decision will have spiritual consequences. We’ll not be a part of that.”

His sentiments were echoed by Professor Gerrie Bester, the national spokesperson for #Hope4SA, one of the organisers of the T2R SA gatherings, who told the SA Jewish Report he believed the foolish and unscriptural stance of the South African government on Israel and the deterioration of international relations was heart breaking.

“As a Christian community, we want to distance ourselves from the hateful stance officials have taken against Israel and say that this isn’t representative of the people of South Africa,” Bester said.

The majority of South Africans are Christian, Van Niekerk said, and T2R SA was birthed as a means to bring change from the ground up. He said that as both a Christian and an economist, the government’s decision to distance itself from countries like the United States and United Kingdom and side with certain nations was concerning as it was stirring up flames of antisemitism and would ultimately have an impact on the economy.

Praying for Israel didn’t mean that the Christian community didn’t care about Palestine, he said, as prayers went out for Israel and Palestine and for peace in the region.

“As T2R SA, we feel a strong connection with Israel, which is dear to us,” said Van Niekerk. “On the morning of 7 October, we were praying together in a farm area outside of Bloemfontein to dedicate the land of South Africa to the Lord. When we came out of prayer was when we first heard of the attacks on Israel. We felt it was a significant moment for us at T2R SA, as the mandate to pray for the peace of Jerusalem was divinely imparted on the morning of this special meeting.”

Bester said that the event had drawn overwhelming support and positive feedback from communities and churches.

He said he had built amazing friendships and relationships with Jewish South Africans and people in Israel over the past two decades, and the hurt and heartfelt cry of dear friends had had an impact on him in a way that he couldn’t describe in words. “Israel is the apple of G-d’s eye according to His word. I won’t poke my finger in the eye of the one I worship with all of my heart,” Bester said.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jessica

    Mar 3, 2024 at 5:15 am

    Weird, I can’t seem to recall any organized protests by the Jewish and Christian communities against pro-“Palestinian” rallies.

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