Commentary: Only the gospel can bring lasting peace


Growing up, my family went to a lot of revival meetings. Not only did we attend the revivals at our home church, but we would also attend revivals at neighboring churches and camp meetings. At the time, those revivals typically lasted a week, and rarely would we miss any service.

Of all those revival services, one always stands out in my mind. I was about 10 years old when Brother Fayiz Saknini came to preach at Macland Baptist Church and he made an impression on me. He spoke with a power and conviction that accentuated his knowledge of the Holy Land. He knew Israel because he was from Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus. 

Fayiz Saknini was born and raised in Nazareth during the British Mandate. He came to a saving faith in Christ through the ministry of the Baptist church in Nazareth. He was very involved with the church but worked for British Oil. At the beginning of the war in 1948, British Oil moved him to Lebanon. He was told that he would be able to return home after the war, but things didn’t quite work out that way.

While in Lebanon, Brother Fayiz accepted the call to preach. He pastored several churches until he was called to pastor the First Baptist Church of Beirut. Brother Fayiz left Beirut due to the Lebanese Civil War and came to America, where he began a new phase of ministry. Brother Fayiz became a language missionary in the US working with Arab immigrants. He preached throughout the U.S. and around the world sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

My father was a pastor and would call Brother Fayiz to lead revivals in the churches he served. Once, in the 1990s, we were having meals before the revival meetings at church. During these meals, we were able to sit down with Brother Fayiz and hear his personal stories as well as ask him questions.

My father asked him two related questions regarding tensions in Israel. The first question was: "What do you think of Yassar Arafat, isn’t he just a criminal?" At the time, Arafat was the leader of the PLO and had previously sought the destruction of Israel. He changed his position with the Oslo Accords and supposedly agreed to pursue a two-state solution. Brother Fayiz responded, “Oh, he is my neighbor.”

Fayiz did not dispute the criminal actions of Arafat or the PLO, but he could also remember equally violent and criminal acts by Zionist paramilitary organizations. Neither side was an enemy, but they were neighbors to be loved. That response led to a second question: "What can bring peace to Israel?" Again, the Oslo Accords had carved out a possible peace, but there were doubts on all sides about how long they would last. Fayiz did not place his faith in the accords but answered, “The only solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Only Jesus could bring peace to the Middle East, Brother Fayiz taught. 

As we see the conflict raging in Israel today and even see conflict over the war here in the US, we need to remember those two things. We need to remember that those involved in the conflict are our neighbors. As our neighbors, we need to love them and pray for them.

We also need to remember that they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That holds true for the Jews and Arabs fighting in the Middle East and for the protestors on both sides here in the U.S.. Only the Gospel has the power to change lives and remove enmity that stretches back centuries. They need Jesus.


Terry Braswell is pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga.