All the best stories have a twist you couldn’t see coming. For Pastor Joey Steelman, CUFI’s Northern California Director, the first twist came when he found Jesus through a gym. Until then, his life was predictably headed in one clear direction down. An angry and hurting young man, he was in and out of trouble and even went to jail.
Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world, and it is legendary among pro-Israel campus activists for its consistent strong support for Israel. But just because Liberty’s student body has historically stood behind Israel doesn’t guarantee it always will. As young Christians are increasingly drawn to implement their faith in the realm of social justice, they are being targeted with a false narrative that portrays Israel as an oppressor. Under the guise of fairness and compassion, some young Christians might be persuaded to support the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. CUFI on Campus students at Liberty realized they needed to be proactive.
Some people are called to be leaders for their generation. Emilio Navarrete is one of those people. His resume is already impressive, and he hasn’t even graduated from college yet. As a Junior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, he’s not only the Vice President of his CUFI on Campus chapter. He’s also the president of his school’s College Republicans chapter and serves as the Finance Secretary of the Arizona Federation of College Republicans, along with serving in four other student organizations.
Siraya Chambers might be young, but her bold faith far exceeds her age. Connected to CUFI by her Bible teacher as a high school Senior, Siraya fell in love with the pro-Israel movement when she came to Summit in 2015. She founded her CUFI on Campus chapter at the University of Nevada Las Vegas as a Freshman before being selected as a Bonhoeffer Fellow in 2016.
Hovsep Chaparian grew up as an American, but his parents are originally from the Middle East. Several of his extended family members still live in Syria and Lebanon, and through his family he has an extensive knowledge of the Armenian community in the Middle East. His parents raised him with a love for Israel because of their Christian faith, but not every member of his family shares those feelings. So when Hovsep joined CUFI on Campus as a Bonhoeffer Fellowship student and visited Israel for the first time in August 2016, he already had a very personal interest in the role Israel plays in the Middle East.
Chris Vasquez doesn’t really like politics, but he really loves God. A native of San Antonio, he had attended Pastor Hagee’s Cornerstone Church for a long time and had heard about God’s love for Israel from the pulpit many times. But it wasn’t until he was invited to CUFI’s Washington DC Summit as a student in 2014 that God started to change his heart and draw him towards taking an active stand for Israel.
Talking to Alex, it is immediately evident he is not an average 20-year-old college student. For one thing, he is already a Senior at the University of Minnesota. For another, his intellectual depth and spiritual maturity marks him as someone far older and wiser than his age would suggest. In less than an hour, his thoughtful responses to our interview made it clear why he was selected as part of the inaugural class of CUFI on Campus Bonhoeffer Fellows.
In early March this year, militants attacked a Catholic retirement home in Yemen and murdered 16 people working there. In that attack, Father Thomas Uzhannil was kidnapped and is still being held prisoner. One of the nuns who survived described the brutal attack in an emotional visit with Father Tom’s family.
For six years, Asia Bibi has languished in a prison cell after being accused of violating Pakistan’s Islamic anti-blasphemy laws. The Christian mother of five children has been sentenced to death, and her lawyers have appealed the court’s decision many times. The final appeal hearing was scheduled to take place in October, but was postponed after one of the judges recused himself. The new date for her final appeal has not been set at this time.
The ancient Christian communities of Syria, established in the first century AD, have been decimated by the Syrian Civil War ongoing since 2011 and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group. Syria is the fifth most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, according to Open Doors International. The country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is at war with several factions of rebels and Islamic radical groups, including ISIS. But Assad’s oppressive government is backed by Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah, and Assad’s military is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians. CUFI’s Erick Stakelbeck explained the complicated situation in Syria on this episode of The Watchman. Unfortunately, there are no “good guys” in this war except the innocent people trapped between the competing forces.
An estimated 1.2 million Christians live in Saudi Arabia, but most of these believers are migrants from other countries. By law, all Saudi citizens are considered Muslim. The Islamic government rules by strict Sharia law under which conversion from Islam is punishable by execution and churches are outlawed. In addition to government persecution, Christian converts are often the victims of “honor killings” by angry family members. In 2006, the government promised to allow Christians the freedom to worship privately in their homes but that promise has not been kept.
We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.
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